Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

May all your Christmases be Merry 
With nary a Grinch in sight.
May you enjoy time with friends & family
And may all your New Years be Bright!

Merry Christmas!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Quote of the Week

From all of us to all of you
A very Merry Christmas
And at this joyful time of year
We want you to be with us
So gather round our lovely tree
Where all the lights are shining
We'll be as happy as can be
While all the bells are chiming

Ding, dong, dingle
What a merry sound
Ding, dong, dingle
Kris Kringle is in town

From all of us to all of you
Can't wait until you're with us
We'll meet beneath the mistletoe
And say a Merry Christmas!

- Jiminy Cricket, Disney Christmas Favourites 1958

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Movies for Adults

While these movies mostly don't contain obvious adult themes, most kids would find them boring. I love these Christmas movies and have watched all of them many, many times.

White Christmas - This has been my favorite Christmas movie for as long as I can remember. Starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera Ellen, this is a fantastic story about helping an old friend. Bing and Danny are a popular song and dance duo who agree to help Rosemary and Vera with their act. The girls are the sisters of an "old pal in the army." When they follow the sisters up to Vermont for the Christmas holidays, they run into their old general from their army days during WWII, who has fallen on hard times. In an effort to help him out, they decide to bring their show up to his inn to bring in guests. After many crazy mishaps, everything comes together just in time for Christmas. Featuring many wonderful songs, including "Sisters", "Count Your Blessings" and "White Christmas", this is one you shouldn't miss.

Miracle on 34th Street - Is he "the one and only Santa Claus" or "just a nice old man with whiskers like mother said"? Starring Maureen O'Hara, Natalie Wood, and Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle, this is a wonderful story that will make everyone believe again. Kris Kringle is hired to be Santa in the Macy's Thanksgiving day Parade. He is so wonderful, that they decide to keep him on as the official Santa of Macy's. With Kris's help, everyone begins to put the spirit back into Christmas. When he angers one of the employees, he is put on trial for insanity. Can his lawyer prove that he is Santa?

The Man Who Saved Christmas - This is the amazing story of A.C. "Gillie" Gilbert, inventor of Erector Sets. After years of making toys with the help of his beloved wife, Mary,  and brother, Frank, Gillie is presented with a problem. America has recently joined the fighting during WWI and his brother has been drafted. Gillie is asked to convert his factory to make munitions instead of toys. After a chance comment leads Congress to cancel Christmas, Gillie's son Al and his mother create some holiday magic to help Gillie recover his holiday spirit and save Christmas. Starring the incomparable Jason Alexander as Gillie, this movie, although sad at times, is wonderful proof that Christmas should always be celebrated.

Silent Night - Another in the tradition of Christmas during times of war films. Based on a true story and starring Linda Hamilton, this is the story of young Fritz and his mother, who are fleeing Germany on Christmas Eve 1944. Fritz and Elizabeth Vincken leave their home in the dark of night and head for their cabin near the front lines. Before they can settle in for Christmas, a knock at the door brings both American soldiers with their injured comrade, and German soldiers searching for the enemy. Frau Vincken, a very strong-willed woman, forces them to relinquish their weapons and spend Christmas together. By the end of the evening, they have begun to see each other as men and not as enemies.

The Holiday - For a twist on traditional Christmas movies, try The Holiday. When two women worlds apart each suffer heartbreak shortly before Christmas, they decide to swap houses for a change of scenery. Through a series of misadventures, each finds that love can be found again and Christmas may be the perfect time for something new. Starring Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, and Jack Black, this is a fun Christmas romance. And I love the way Kate Winslet's character helps her elderly neighbor to see that he is important and loved. It's wonderful!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Happy Hanukkah!

Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights, begins tonight at sundown. Hanukkah lasts eight nights, ending on December 28th this year. The first candle on the menorah will be lit tonight. Hanukkah celebrates the triumph of the light over the darkness, a triumph of the spirit. Hanukkah is a time to remember a time, some 21 centuries ago, when a small band of Jews defeated the invading armies of the Greeks. When they returned to the Temple to reclaim it and light the menorah, they discovered that only one cruse of olive oil had escaped contamination. This oil, which should have burned for only one day, miraculously burned for eight days, allowing time for new oil to be prepared with ritual purity. The sages instituted the celebration of Hanukkah so that all would know of the miracle. Other Hanukkah traditions include eating foods fried in oil, such as latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiot (doughnuts), and playing with the dreidel, a spinning top whose symbols represent the phrase "a great miracle happened there." Children receive presents at this time as well as gelt (chocolate coins) or money.

I am not Jewish, but I enjoy experiencing the traditions of other cultures and sharing them with my family. If you would like to know more about Hanukkah, please visit the website which offers a wealth of information about Hanukkah as well as other Jewish holidays.

Chanuka Sameach!
Happy Hanukkah!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Quote of the Week

"I will honor Christmas in my heart,
and try to keep it all the year."
- Charles Dickens

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Quote of the Week

"As long as there's Christmas I truly believe
That hope is the greatest of the gifts we'll receive
As long as our guiding star shines above
There'll always be Christmas
So there always will be a time
When the world is filled with peace and love."

- Beauty & the Beast: Enchanted Christmas

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Movies for Kids, Part 2

And now onto movies for kids aged 6 and up. While some of these movies would be appropriate for a younger audience, I believe older children will get more out of them. Also, several of these films question the existence of Santa Claus, who, by the way, I firmly believe in. As such, I would recommend that you show these at what you consider to be an appropriate age.

Beauty and the Beast: Enchanted Christmas - This film was just recently released on Blu-ray and DVD. I love this story of how Beauty and the Beast came together at Christmas and learned what is truly important about the season, sharing love with others. Featuring the original cast of voices as well as introducing a few new characters, such as Maestro Forte, voiced by the inestimable Tim Curry. Full of songs and a beautiful message of hope and love, this is a great movies to share with children. It does have a few moments that may be scary to young viewers, so I would recommend you watch the film first so that you can gauge how appropriate this may be for your child.

 Yes, Virginia - Based on the true story of a letter written by young Virginia O'Hanlon in 1897 to the editor of the New York Sun, this story is perfect for those children who are beginning to question the existence of Santa Claus. Created by Macy's as part of their Believe campaign, the story of Virginia and her young friend Ollie and their search for the "truth" is a very sweet retelling of this heartwarming tale. Featuring the vocal talents of Neil Patrick Harris, Jennifer Love Hewitt, and Alfred Molina, this is one story every child should know.

The Santa Clause Trilogy - I love the Santa Clause movies. At first, I wasn't too sure about Tim Allen as Santa, but after the first film, I loved him as Santa. The first film tells about how an executive for a toy company became Santa, much to the delight of his son Charlie. The second tells the story of how Santa must seek a wife or he'll have to stop being Santa. The third tells about Santa and Mrs. Claus and their baby that will soon be born. Will Santa stay Santa or will he employ the "Escape Clause?" They are great films that support the existence of Santa Claus in an ever changing form.

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus - Based on a story by L. Frank Baum, author of the Wizard of Oz series, this movie offers a unique explanation for Santa's origins. According to Baum, Santa began life as an infant abandoned near an enchanted forest. Baby Nicholas was taken in by a wood nymph named Nyseal who raised him in a magical world. The Great Ak, leader of the forest teaches Nicholas about the sad and difficult world of humans, leading him to his lifelong gift-giving mission. This film features an amazing cast of voices, including Robby Benson, Dixie Carter, and Hal Holbrook.

Santa and Pete - This unique film has been one of my favorites since the first time I saw it. This is the story of the Dutch Santa (the amazing Hume Cronyn) and his helper, Black Peter. The story begins with master storyteller James Earl Jones as a Grandfather teaching his grandson about Santa and Pete. Full of wonderful references the historical Santa, this story tells about what happens when Santa and Pete arrive in the New World. Although Santa is rather set in his ways, their adventures in New Amsterdam force him to rethink his Christmas traditions.

The Polar Express - I still remember fondly the first time I heard the story of the Polar Express. The story, although brief, was wonderful, with beautiful pictures. The story soon became a phenomenon, with trains being transformed into the Polar Express for one night of Christmas fantasy for lucky boys and girls. To make the story long enough for a movie, they expanded on many of the scenes and added some new ones that fit within the feeling of the original. This is the tale of an incredible journey and the boy who isn't sure what to believe about Santa. Every child has a "critical year" where they question the existence of Santa. Can you imagine what would happen if every child could ride the Polar Express? Maybe everyone would believe. After watching this film for the first time, Bean became obsessed with it. For Christmas that year, I gave her a golden ticket (a bookmark from Hallmark I think) and her own special bell. I wrapped the bell in candy cane striped paper and labeled it "Found this on the seat of my sleigh. Fix that hole in your pocket. Mr. C" just like in the book and movie. She still loves the bell, several years later, and always talks about how sad it is that some grown ups can't hear it ring, but she'll always be able to. This may be our favorite family Christmas movie.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Quote of the Week

"Christmas isn't about candy canes, or lights all aglow,
it's the hearts that we touch,and the care that we show."
- Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Advent Calendars

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is the advent calendar. They come in all types, shapes and sizes. Some, such as the German ones, have doors with chocolates behind them. Some have instructions for activities for Christmas like the tree-shaped one from Family Fun. Some have toys (I love the Lego and Playmobil advent calendars, especially the Playmobil Woodland Santa Set.) Some are boxes, bags, or pockets that can be filled with small presents. Some have a marker that you move each day, like the one from the Disney Store. All help children pass the days while counting down to Christmas.

My favorite advent calendar has been a part of my family's Christmas traditions for as long as I can remember. Its a fabric panel with a house full of bears preparing for Christmas. At the bottom are instructions for moving a small stuffed bear as he seeks out Christmas. My Grandmother made the calendar many years ago. About 15 years ago, my mother, sister, and I embellished it with glittery snow and stars. My sister and I used to have the special job of moving the bear each morning. Every other day, it was my turn and I loved it! The only exception was December 20, my Mom's birthday. On that day, she got to move the bear. (I recently searched for this advent calendar on Ebay so that I could have one in my own home only to discover that they sell for $350 or more!)

A few years ago, Bean and I got to spend all of December with my Mom. It was the first year that she got to see the bear. She loved him just as much as I always did. She would race to the calendar every morning and wait for Grandma or I to read the instructions so she could move the bear. It was wonderful seeing how much she enjoyed this family tradition.

Disney Store Countdown
This year, we have a few advent calendars. I have a paper bakery full of bearded elves with winter animals and Christmas toys behind the doors. My sister has the corduroy wall hanging with Mickey and a present you move from day to day. And Bean has a set of pennant pockets full of little presents (at least she will have a full set if I ever get around to finishing them!), and a new Playmobil Santa's Post Office set.

These calendars are a wonderful part of the holiday season. No child should be without one!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Happy Birthday, Walt!

Disneyland Partners Statue

On this day in 1901, Walter Elias Disney was born in Chicago, Illinois. Walt Disney created what has surely become one of the most beloved characters ever... Mickey Mouse. In addition to this, he invented many other wonderful characters and changed the way we think of theme parks forever. In celebration of all that he accomplished during his life, I would like to say...

Happy Birthday, Walt!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Quote of the Week

“When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.” -- Walt Disney

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mark Twain

Today would have been Mark Twain's 176th birthday. I have always loved Twain's stories, especially a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. Mark Twain wrote stories that touch the heart and inspire the imagination. Disney has made several of Twain's books into movies, including Tom & Huck, A Kid in King Arthur's Court, and the animated Prince and the Pauper.

Happy Birthday, 
Mark Twain!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Christmas Movies for Kids, Part 1

I love Christmas movies! I'm afraid I'm rather addicted to them. I have so many favorites anymore, that I start watching them just after Halloween. Some are traditional movies that my family has watched for years. In fact, it's a family tradition to watch Miracle on 34th Street every year during the long Thanksgiving weekend. (And it has to be the old version with Edmund Gwenn and Maureen O'Hara, although we enjoy both the black and white and colorized versions.) In honor of this long standing tradition, I thought I would share some of our favorite holiday films with you. Today, we'll start with great holiday films for kids of any age.

Eloise at Christmastime - The first Christmas that this was on tv, we kept missing the beginning. By the time we finally were able to watch the entire movie, we'd seen parts of it 4-5 times. After seeing it so many times, my grandfather said, "Not that little girl again!" It's one of my favorite memories of him. Eloise is a precocious 6 year old who lives at the Plaza hotel. She's a bit of a trouble maker and match maker who somehow always manages to evade punishment for her adventures. We LOVE Eloise and Julie Andrews as Nanny, too!

Eloise: Little Miss Christmas - Eloise and her friends at the Plaza decide to put on a Christmas Spectacular, but with a review of the hotel coming the day before Christmas, Mr. Salamone may cancel the show. What will Eloise do? A fun, short, animated film, this story of the spunky 6 year old will quickly become a favorite with your kids as well. This movie feature the voice talents of Lynn Redgrave as Nanny and Tim Curry as Mr. Salamone.

Emmett Otter's Jugband Christmas - Every fan of the Muppets should own a copy of this movie. Featuring the fantastic talents of the original band of Muppeteers, this story is one that shouldn't be missed. Emmett and his Ma both want to give each other the best Christmas present ever, but with money in short supply, they each decide to enter the town talent contest. Will the risk pay off, or will they both lose it all? Watch this wonderful story to find out.

Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas - Featuring three Christmas stories full of love, magic and surprises, this film is sure to delight. In a story reminiscent of O. Henry's Gift of the Magi, Mickey and Minnie remember the year they gave up what they thought was most dear to give gifts to each other. Goofy and Max recall the year Max stopped believing in Santa and the adventure that eventually made him see why belief is important, although a visit from the real Santa always helps. Huey, Dewey, and Louie remember the year they wished for Christmas every day and what it took them to learn what the holiday is really about.

Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas - Featuring four new stories of love and magic. Minnie and Daisy are both a part of the ice skating show. Can they put aside their competition and put on their ice spectacular? Uncle Scrooge warns Huey, Dewey, and Louie that their behavior will keep them off Santa's good list, so they travel to the North Pole to fix the problem. While there, they discover that Christmas is about sharing and caring. Max is bringing home a girl for Christmas, but can he count on Goofy not to embarrass him? Donald just wants to sit at home with his cocoa, but Daisy and his nephews have other ideas. Can Donald find his Christmas spirit before its too late? Finally, Mickey has created what he thinks is the perfect Christmas party, but when Pluto wrecks it and then runs away, he realizes that parties are nothing without your friends.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! - This classic animated tale tells the story of the grumpy old Grinch who lives on Mount Crumpet and his hatred of the Whos who live in Whoville below. As the story goes "Every WHO down in WHOVILLE liked Christmas a lot, but the Grinch, who lived just north of WHOVILLE did not!" Narrated by the incredible Boris Karloff with a song sung by Thurl Ravenscroft (who also voiced Tony the Tiger as well as one of the singing busts in Disney's Haunted Mansion attractions.")

Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas - George and the Man with the Yellow Hat are preparing to celebrate Christmas. From Christmas trees with chairs in them to tomato snowman, everything is uniquely perfect for the happy pair. There's just one problem, the Man is having trouble understanding George's wishlist and George doesn't know what to get for the man who has everything. It all works out in typical George fashion and even has a few new songs, like "Are you ready?" and "Christmas Monkey".

Original Television Christmas Classics - There are several different versions of this set available. My favorites from them include: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, narrated by the wonderful Burl Ives, Frosty the Snowman narrated by Jimmy Durante, Santa Claus is Coming to Town featuring Fred Astaire & Mickey Rooney, The Cricket on the Hearth, and the Little Drummer Boy. All are wonderful old classics that are fun to watch at Christmas.
Although not generally included, another old classic is Frosty's Winter Wonderland narrated by Andy Griffith. Frosty makes a Missus and hilarity ensues.

The Happy Elf - This wacky story, narrated by Harry Connick, Jr., is the story of Eubie, one of Santa's elves, who is always deliriously happy, much to the annoyance of those around him. When Eubie learns that there is an entire town of children on Santa's naughty list, he sets out to help them find the spirit of Christmas and get back on the nice list. In the process, he helps himself and his friends to achieve their dream of being part of Santa's sleigh team.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving, full of family and friends, food and fun. A time to remember and be thankful for all we've been blessed with in this life. 

Heap high the board with plenteous cheer and gather to the feast,
And toast the sturdy Pilgrim band whose courage never ceased.
~Alice W. Brotherton

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

New Trailer for Brave

Have you seen the latest trailer for Brave? This new film from Disney just looks better and better. I can't wait to see it!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mickey!

Today is Mickey Mouse's 83rd Birthday. From his first appearance in "Steamboat Willie" to his current role in Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Mickey has changed over the years, but has only become more popular. Mickey Mouse is  a true American icon who's creation changed the entertainment industry forever. As Walt Disney once said, "I hope we never lose sight of one fact... that this was all started by a Mouse."

Happy Birthday, Mickey! 

And Happy Birthday to my sister, too!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Quote of the Week

"That's what you need: a down-to-earth story that people can associate themselves with." -- Walt Disney

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Talking Mickey at Disney World

Have you heard about the newest character experience at Disney World? Now, when you meet Mickey at the Town Square Theater, he may actually speak to you. And he won't just say the same things to each guest. Mickey asks and answers questions and truly talks with guests young and old. Several videos have been appearing lately of guest speaking with Mickey. While one is an official Disney video, the others are videos taken by surprised guests who experienced this new talking Mickey during this initial testing phase. As you can see from the videos, this new talking Mickey is quite the experience!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Quote of the Week

"It's not just about living forever. It's about living with yourself forever." Captain Teague, Pirates of the Caribbean

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens
One of my favorite holiday stories, either book or movie, is A Christmas Carol. I love the tale of the miserly curmudgeon, Ebeneezer Scrooge, and his unwanted search for redemption. The characters are fantastic, well written and believable and you really feel as if you know them. I read Dickens ultimate Christmas story every year and my Mom and I collect movie versions of the story as well. Bean has watched them pretty much since she was born. One Christmas, after watching the Patrick Stewart version for the millionth time, she ran around saying "I'm the ghost of Christmas NEVER, mwah ha ha ha!" The story of Scrooge has become a favorite Christmas tradition for our family and I look forward to it every year.

Patrick Stewart as Ebeneezer Scrooge
My favorite classic version is the one with Patrick Stewart as Scrooge. Stewart spent several years doing dramatic one-man retellings of the story in New York and Los Angeles. The one-man show is available as a cd and is fantastic. He really gets into the story and does multiple voices and sound effects. I wish I could have seen it live, but I'll settle for listening to it several times a year. The movie is also fantastic, and probably the closest version to Dickens. Another good version is the George C. Scott film, although it takes some liberties with the original. A very old version starring Alister Sim is also available on DVD.

Musical versions are also fantastic. My favorite is Scrooge with Albert Finney. Finney makes a very grumpy Scrooge, but he's a lot of fun to watch. The music is also fantastic and memorable. I especially love the song "Thank You Very Much" and how it changes once Scrooge has learned his lesson. Another great one is A Christmas Carol: The Musical with Kelsey Grammer. This version has a fantastic cast, including: Jane Krakowski, Jason Alexander, and Jennifer Love Hewitt. With music by Alan Menken of Beauty and the Beast fame, this Broadway-style show really shines with Christmas spirit. 

When it comes to children's versions, my favorite is still The Muppet Christmas Carol. I love the Muppets and Michael Caine as Scrooge is fantastic. The Muppet version has my favorite "Ghost of Christmas Present", a large, absent-minded spirit with fascinating hair. The new Disney version starring Jim Carrey in multiple animated roles is also very good. While they have added a bit of adventure to some otherwise simple scenes in the book, it is still a very good retelling of the story. For smaller children, I love Mickey's Christmas Carol. A short, simple story that introduced the miserly Scrooge McDuck, this is a great way to introduce children to the classic tale. Another cartoon version with voices by Simon Callow, Kate Winslet, Nicholas Cage, and Michael Gambon, takes a lot of liberties with the story, but has a poignant song sung by Kate Winslet. A cartoon version featuring Tim Curry, Michael York, Ed Asner, and Whoopie Goldberg as the "Ghost of Christmas Present".
This version is full of catchy, silly songs, and my favorite is the utterly ridiculous  "Santa's Sooty Suit" as sung by Scrooge's nephew Fred. A surprisingly fun children's version is Barbie in a Christmas Carol. With a few Barbie twists, the main character, Eden Starling, is shown how her selfishness hurts those around her. While obvious liberties have been taken with the story, the core lesson of overcoming selfishness and redeeming ones life are still present. For the truly silly, there's even a Scooby-Doo version that is good for a laugh and fun for Scooby lovers. Called "The Nutcracker Scoob", the gang, minus Velma, helps the children of a small orphanage to stop the "Ghost of Christmas Present".

In all, there are a lot of different versions of A Christmas Carol, and many of them are well worth watching. I personally watch at least 6 different ones every Christmas, and I'm always looking for new versions. This year, I plan to read the book to Bean for the very first time. It will take a few weeks as we only read a few pages each night, but it will be well worth it and I can't wait to share Dickens classic story with her as it was originally written.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Jingle Smells Vinylmation

Have you seen the newest Christmas Vinylmations at the Disney Store? They are so cute! And they smell like holiday goodies to boot. I love these new 3" Vinylmations, which double as ornaments. They're $11.95 each and are packaged in display tubes reminiscent of a snow globe. I must say, I want them all!
Gingerbread Man smells like gingerbread
Marshmallow Snowman smells like marshmallows

Chocolate Mickey smells like chocolate

Peppermint Candy Cane smells like peppermint

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Quote of the Week

"I do not like to repeat successes, I like to go on to other things." -- Walt Disney

Monday, October 31, 2011

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Once Upon a Time

Tonight was the second episode of the new Fairy Tale inspired show from the creative minds at Disney and ABC. The premise is interesting, the Evil Queen has cursed all of the fairy tale characters to lives in our world with no happy endings. None of the characters remember who they were, and all of their lives have been changed, and not for the better. The first show told the story of what brought everyone into this unfortunate situation. The second gave more behind the scenes of how the Evil Queen enacted the curse that brought the characters to our world. It also introduced the Once Upon a Time version of Maleficent, who wasn't nearly as frightening as the one in the animated Disney film Sleeping Beauty. The next episode will give more insight into how Prince Charming and Snow White came together.
So far, I like it. The characters are interesting and engaging. I want to know more about them and what history brought them into their current troubles. The costumes from the fairy tale scenes are fantastic and I look forward to seeing what else the designers have created. In all, it's a show worth watching.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Quote of the Week

"Just because you can't understand something, it doesn't mean it's wrong." -- Arthur, Sword in the Stone

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


This video came with the following description: "This is a car advertisement from Great Britain. When they finished filming the ad, the film editor noticed something moving along the side of the car, like a ghostly white mist. They found out that a person had been killed a year earlier in that exact same spot. The ad was never put on TV because of the unexplained ghostly phenomenon. Watch the front end of the car as it clears the trees in the middle of the screen and you'll see the white mist crossing in front of the car then following it along the road.....Spooky! Is it a ghost, or is it simply mist? You decide. If you listen closely to the ad, you'll even hear the cameraman whispering in the background about it near the end of the commercial."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Halloween Books for Adults

When Halloween rolls around, it's always fun to read something a little spooky. I love reading Halloween stories, or just stories that are scary. Here are a few of my favorites.

Dracula - Published in 1897, Dracula has become the classic story of a vampire. This story, by Bram Stoker, was inspired by Stoker's years of research on vampires and European folklore. Written as a series of letters, diary entries, and newspaper clippings, Stoker presented the story as if it was had really happened. Stoker was interested in tales of Vlad the Impaler and included him in his story of a vampire who was creepy and classy by turns.

Frankenstein: or the Modern Prometheus - In 1816, Mary Shelley created this tale of terror during a night of drunken debauchery with her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, her stepsister Claire Clairmont, Lord Byron and his doctor, Dr. John Polidori. While Mary initially considered this to be a good start to a short story, eventually it became the novel Frankenstein. Mary may have been inspired by tales of Johann Conrad Dippel, who conducted experiments in reanimation at Castle Frankenstein, near Geneva. While Dippel's experiments likely involved animals, rumors persisted that he had in fact raided graveyards for human corpses. In the end, Dippel's only discovery was the dye, Prussian Blue, which may have been the cause of his death.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - Written in 1885 by Robert Louis Stevenson, this story was nearly discarded by the author before it was published. Stevenson was ill at the time and was confined to bed. His wife heard him cry out and went to wake him, at which point, he said, "Why did you wake me? I was dreaming a fine bogey tale." Inspired by the dream, Stevenson completed the first draft of the story in less than three days. His wife read the story and offered her comments that it should be an allegory and was a truly frightening start. Stevenson burned the first manuscript, either because it scared his wife, or because he wanted to change it to an allegorical tale. He then spent the next six days rewriting the manuscript that became Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

The Collected Tales of Edgar Allen Poe - Between 1826 & 1848, Poe wrote many horrifying tales of terror. Among them are The Raven, in which a bird torments a man by it's mere presence, The Tell-Tale Heart, in which a man has committed murder and is tormented by the ghostly beating of the dead man's heart, and The Murders in the Rue Morgue, in which a mysterious figure has killed a family in an impossible manner. Other tales, several of which have been made into movies starring Vincent Price, include: The Masque of the Red Death, A Cask of Amontillado, The Fall of the House of Usher, and the Pit and the Pendulum.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow - Written by Washington Irving in 1820, the story was based on an old German folktale set in Sleepy Hollow, New York. The Dutch settlers told tales of a spectral horseman that rode through the Hollow, frightening the locals. Irving may have based some of the characters, such as Katrina Van Tassel and Ichabod Crane, on local residents that he knew. Even the names are variations of locals that Irving spent time with.

The Monkey's Paw - Written in 1902, this short story by W. W. Jacobs, reminds us to be careful what you wish for. The plot revolves around a monkey's paw, blessed by a fakir in India, that will grant three wishes each to three different men. Sergeant-Major Morris, who possesses the paw, tells a old friend of the paw, but warns him and his family of the sorrow it brings, saying, "It had a spell put on it by an old fakir, a very holy man. He wanted to show that fate ruled people's lives, and that those who interfered with it did so to their sorrow." 

The Picture of Dorian Gray - Published in 1890, this terrifying tale by Oscar Wilde tells the story of young Dorian Gray, a man of astonishing physical beauty. After having his portrait painted, young Gray meets a man who convinces him that the only things worth pursuing are beauty and pleasure. Gray agrees, but wishes that he could sell his soul so that his portrait could age instead of him. His wish is granted, with each horrific act of debauchery appearing as disfigurement of the portrait as a reflection of the damage to his soul.

For a good scare, a small thrill of terror, a story that will make you jump at the smallest sound, try one of these classics. They're creepy good fun!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Halloween Jokes

Just in time for Halloween, Disney has released Fozzie Bear's favorite kid-friendly Halloween jokes. As you would expect, they're terrible, and yet still funny.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Halloween Books for Kids

We love to read at our house. I've read to Bean nearly every night since she was born. As a result, we have a lot of books. When it comes to Halloween stories, we have quite the collection. Here are a few of my favorites.

Pumpkin Light by David Ray - This story has the most beautiful pictures. It's the story of a young boy named Angus who's favorite day is Halloween. One night, Angus stays out to late and gets into trouble with an enchanted scarecrow and a magical pumpkin. This is one Halloween he'll never forget.

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda D. Williams - This story is just a little bit spooky. A little old lady keeps hearing things behind her as she walks home. Every time she looks back, she sees another piece of clothing following her home making eerie noises, but she's not afraid. Another fun story with lots of beautiful pictures.

Beneath the Ghost Moon by Jane Yolen - This rhyming story tells the tale of a house full of mice and the creeps who try to destroy their fun. The mice fight the creeps to win back their house and allow them to celebrate the Ghost Eve Ball. A fun book to read with an exciting story.

Halloween Bugs: A Trick or Treat Pop Up Book by David A. Carter - I love the Bugs books. Pop Up books have always been a family favorite and, although simply written, the pop ups are hilarious! We love finding the bugs hiding behind whimsical doors. My favorite is the cemetery at the end.

Angelina's Halloween by Katharine Holabird - Angelina and Alice have made wonderful, delicate firefly costumes for Halloween. Angelina's little sister Polly wants to be a firefly, too, but Angelina insists she's too little. After Polly decides to be a ghost, they go out Trick or Treating, and Polly gives Angelina quite a scare.