Monday, October 28, 2013

Canadian Halloween History

Halloween is only three days away. I remember my Halloween days. they were a lot more fun than today, at least in my opinion.
We made our own costumes. Princesses, superman, cowboys and ghosts were big back then. We trekked through our neighborhood with all our friends, and our pillowcases (yes, I'm that old) shouting trick-or-treat. Some people asked us inside to perform a trick. Usually we sang a song and got our treats. 
Then some idiot put needles in an apple and the whole atmosphere began to change. We had to check all the apples and candy brought home for needles or other things
Now we buy our costumes, which in my opinion are not always age appropriate. And fewer children traipse through the neighborhood yelling trick-or-treat.

With Halloween approaching I thought I'd share the history of our Canadian Halloween, which I researched.
Halloween has Celtic origins. In pre-Christian times, many people believed that spirits from the underworld and ghosts of dead people could visit the world of the living on the night of October 31st. These spirits could harm the living or take them back to the underworld. (Hmm - maybe the beginning of the zombies?) To avoid this, people started dressing up as ghosts and spirits if they left their homes on October 31st. They hoped this would confuse the ghosts and spirits.
Halloween was also a time, when spirits might give messages to people. In some areas, it was  traditional for unmarried girls to pour molten lead into water. the shape that the lead took when it hardened was seen as a clue to the professions of their future husbands. Halloween traditions were brought to Canada by Irish and Scottish immigrants. Halloween is now celebrated in a range of countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia.

Halloween is celebrated in Canada on October 31st every year. It is a day to mark the single night in the year when, according to old Celtic belief, spirits and the dead can cross over into the world of the living. I believe this is the night b people try and contact Houdini.

Some people hold parties and children mat trick-or-treat in their neighborhood, or one of the busier, larger neighborhoods. Today it isn't unusual for parents to drive their children to areas where they think they will get the best 'loot.'

Some people put a lot of effort into decorating their homes, yards and driveways. they may even construct life-size replica graveyards or dungeons. Today you can also buy a lot of these things from larger stores. Other people organize costume parties for adults and/or children. Popular activities at parties include watching horror films and trying to scare the guests.
There are special foods associated with Halloween. These include packaged candy, toffee apples  roasted corn, popcorn and pumpkin pie. Halloween beer, which is made by adding pumpkin and spices to the mash before fermenting it, is also available in liquor stores.
Children also take part in a long-standing Canadian tradition of 'Trick-or-Treat for Unicef.'
Pumpkin carving contests, pumpkin art tours, a reading marathon and symbolic Walks for Water are just a few examples of the educational and fundraising activities schools and children develop to help provide thousands of children in developing countries with basic quality education.
There is a wide range of Halloween symbols. These include black cats, spiders and figures such as ghosts, skeletons, witches and wizards. Pumpkins, graveyards, cobwebs, haunted houses and the colors green, orange, grey and black are also associated with Halloween. these symbols are used to decorate homes and party venues and are seen on costumes, gift paper, cards. cookies, cakes and candy.

Anyone want to share their memories of Halloween or maybe a favorite costume they made?

Saturday, October 26, 2013


Our theme for October is the paranormal. What better to talk about with Halloween right around the corner?  The paranormal is also very popular in books these days, with vampires and zombies and other world themes in so many genres. It’s also big on TV. This year we have Dracula.

So are you a believer in the paranormal or a skeptic? I’m a believer. I’ve always believed in ghosts and several years ago I was in New Orleans. Two girlfriends and I were staying in one of the old hotels in the French Quarter.  It was a brick structure and we were on the top floor with the slanted roof. We’d explored the French Quarter that evening. I’d bought one of those yummy praline cookies and put it, in its little paper bag, on the stand beside my bed.

We went to bed and fell asleep. A few hours later I was wakened by a rustling sound. I lay there with my eyes closed trying to figure out what it might be. I decided we must have mice and it was eating my cookie. I didn’t open my eyes. (Okay, I’m a coward.) I didn’t want to see the mouse and scream and wake everyone up. The scrunching of the paper continued for maybe fifteen minutes, or more.

In the morning I got up and looked and the cookie hadn’t been touched. The bag was still tightly closed. No sign of mice. I figured a friendly ghost had tried to have a snack, but without any success.

When one of my girlfriends woke up she said she’d heard someone digging at the bricks above her bed during the night. It had kept her awake for hours. She was sure it was the ghost, maybe trying to get out from behind the wall.

Two nights later my other girlfriend said she’d seen a woman in a blue dress with a hooped skirt in the corner of the room, looking at her. Obviously we were sharing the room with a friendly ghost.

This isn't a ghost story but my mother was in a care home several hundred miles away. At noon one day I came home from work at lunch and decided to call my mother and see how she was doing. I dialed the number. Her phone did not ring and I could hear her talking to a volunteer. She was asking that person to please call her daughter (me).  She gave the person my number and the volunteer dialed. I heard all this and kept yelling "Hello! I'm here!" but no one heard me. When she finished dialing I said "Hello" again and this time she heard me. I was still on my phone and obviously it didn't ring. The volunteer handed the phone to my mother and we talked.
Do you have an explanation? I never have figured it out.
There are many such stories and lots of tales about ghosts in the French quarter and I believe them all. What about you? Do you believe in the paranormal? Have you any stories to share? I’d love to hear them.

Now head over to Marci Baun’s blog and see what she has to say about the paranormal.



Tuesday, October 22, 2013

My New Book

I am getting ready to upload my new book, MISSING. It's the second in The Hawkins Family series, set in Montana. This is Luke's story. Luke is the only brother not working on the ranch. He's the town's doctor. The older doctor who was his partner is retiring and Luke has been advertising for a new doctor. His only response is Allie Parsons, from New York City, who can't believe the isolation of Duster, a small town in Montana. She has signed a contract to work temporarily there until he can find a permanent replacement. It's been edited and I'm going over it for the last time. I thought I'd share a short excerpt from it. If you have any comments, I'd love to hear them , especially if they'll make it a better book.

 Allie pushed open the door to the clinic and stepped into the small, crowded waiting room. A slight scent of antiseptic tickled her nose. She stopped. Silence crept across the room. One by one, heads turned toward the door.
It might be the novelty of a stranger, but more likely it was the novelty of a stranger in fancy, city clothes with a run up her leg, all the way to her thigh. She threaded her way through the patients to the reception desk. Patient’s heads turned. A few of them put down the magazines they were thumbing through.  Allie made a mental bet that those magazines were probably three or four years old. The furniture in the waiting room had seen better days, but it was serviceable.
The men and women stared at her, probably wondering who the heck she was. Several patients smiled at her. She managed to return the smiles. At least no one laughed.
She approached the desk. The man standing behind the counter; tall, broad-shouldered, maybe thirtyish, with curly dark hair and a strong, square chin caught her attention right away. His cobalt blue eyes, under long dark lashes, latched on to her as she walked toward him. Even partially covered by his lab coat, his muscled chest strained against the white t-shirt.
If he was the doctor he definitely was not the old geezer she’d expected.
A few feet from the desk, she stopped. His electric blue eyes locked into hers. She couldn’t look away. Sensuality oozed across the space between them. Her breath hitched into an irregular rhythm, kicking her pulse up a notch.
“Good, you finally got here. I thought Jean would send someone a little faster.” His rich, smooth voice rolled over her. “Look, we’re backed up. Patients’ files are over there and the appointment book is on the desk. Check them in, pull their file, and put the file in the slot by the examining room door.”
“Excuse me?” She managed to break eye contact. She stared up at the man snapping orders at her. She’d run away from one tyrant and had no intention of putting up with another over-bearing one, even if he was knock-down gorgeous. His firm abs, linebacker-type shoulders and muscular body did not compensate for his attitude.
Who did this jerk think he was?
Her back stiffened. She assumed he was the doctor, but his manners confused her. If staff and working partners were expected to put up with this, no wonder they hadn’t been able to find another doctor.
 “You’re not going to make me repeat all that are you? I have a room full of patients. I thought when I asked Jean to send a temp over from the hospital she’d send someone with training and at least a vague idea of what you were doing.” A sigh slipped through his lips and he rolled his eyes. The look he gave her placed her one step above an idiot.
He turned and pointed to a huge pile of folders. “The patients’ files are…”
Allie pulled her shoulders back, raised her chin and tightened her lips together. “Excuse me. I believe you’ve made a mistake. First of all, I’m not stupid. Second, I’m not your damn temp. I’m a doctor, Alexandra Parsons, M.D. I understood you were expecting me.”
“You’re the new doc? Shoot. I didn’t expect you today.” The heart-stopping man stared down at her. His full lips drooped in apparent disappointment.
The disappointment could be her, or the fact he still didn’t have a temp. She couldn’t tell.
“I arrived early, so I could acquaint myself with the town and find a place to live. I just dropped by to introduce myself.”
He focused on her, drawing his eyebrows into a frown. “You’re the new physician. I should have known by that fancy outfit. It screams big city.”
“Sorry. I’ve just arrived and haven’t had time to get my jeans and plaid shirt yet. I’ll move that to the top of my list, so I’ll fit in.”
A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth, but he controlled it. He ran his fingers through the tangle of dark curls. “Look, I’m sorry. I mean … my mistake. Donna, my receptionist quit this morning with no notice. She ran off with some truck driver. I’ve got a room full of patients and a long list of messages to return. The phone keeps ringing, and right now, I need a receptionist to sort this mess out.”
“I see.”
“Yes, I also desperately need another doctor. My day is not going well, as you can see. I’m Luke Hawkins by the way.” He stuck out his hand.
She wiped her hand on her skirt before extending it. He immediately encased it in strong fingers.
“And I suppose that receptionist is expected to be a female?”
“Wha…?” He dropped her hand.
She shook her head. “Forget it.”
Allie stepped behind the desk and opened a bottom drawer. She dropped her purse inside, before glancing at the appointment book. “Mrs. Douglas?”

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


I know our Canadian Thanksgiving is over. Monday, October 14th was our Thanksgiving. Like many of us I had a wonderful turkey dinner. But I got to thinking, what is the day really about?

Yes, we should be thankful and I was, for many things, but where did the Canadian Thanksgiving day come from? As a Canadian, I had no idea – so I researched it, mostly for my own interest, but I thought I’d share it. The Canadian Thanksgiving occurs on the second Monday in October every year. It was officially proclaimed by the Canadian government on Thursday, January 31st, 1957.

A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed – to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October.

It is a statutory holiday in all the Canadian provinces except Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, where it is an optional holiday. It also coincides with the American Columbus Day and the English and European Harvest festival. And like the Americans we also have football games and parades in some area, on the day.

Thanksgiving days were observed in Canada starting in 1799, but weren’t held every year. After the  American Revolution, American refugees who remained loyal to Great Britain moved from the newly independent United States and came to Canada. They brought the customs and practices of the American Thanksgiving to Canada, such as the turkey, pumpkin, and squash. (Football came later).

The first Thanksgiving Day after Canadian Confederation was observed as a civic holiday on April 5, 1872, to celebrate the recovery of the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) from a serious illness.

For many years before it was declared a national holiday in 1879, Thanksgiving was celebrated in either late October or early November. From 1879 onward, Thanksgiving Day has been observed every year, the date initially being a Thursday in November. The date of celebration changed several times until 1957.

So now I know. It was something that evolved over time and with input from various countries and people. If you have any other interesting information or tidbits on our Thanksgiving, please share them with us.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

October is Breast Cancer Month

I write about Breast Cancer on my website under Health Tips. It’s mostly statistics, prevention, treatments and reconstruction. If you're interested in that information you can check it out at

Here I decided to blog about my personal experience with cancer. When I was forty-two I volunteered to participate in a Canadian Breast Cancer study. It was a five year program. I was assigned to yearly mammograms plus diet information. The other group just filled out a written diet information form. In the third year of the study they found a few pin pricks inside an area about the size of a dime. I had a fine-needle biopsy and it was diagnosed as cancer. I had a lumpectomy.

Nine years later I had another very small lump in the same breast. The cancer had returned. My specialist was wonderful. We had a talk and he gave the choices – and included having another lumpectomy. (Which isn’t a choice, but he gave me control over my decision) When I went back he said that really wasn’t an option – which I knew. I had a mastectomy. I didn’t have reconstruction at the time, because I didn’t think it was that important. I didn’t have chemotherapy or radiation. I took Tamoxifen for the next five years. And so far I’m still cancer free.

I did have breast reconstruction after about five years. I got tired of my prosthesis falling out in the garden and at the gym. I also couldn’t wear anything with much of a neckline because if you bent over your prosthesis fell forward and gaped. I got should have done it at the time of my mastectomy.

I know there are many other women out there who have gone through breast cancer, or are going through it. I’d love to hear your stories. Please post them.

Or if you have any questions, please ask.

And please support Breast Cancer month in any way you can.

Saturday, October 5, 2013


Critter Care Wildlife is a small (Canadian) organization that cares for wild animals found injured, or in the case of black bears cubs, abandoned, when their mothers were killed. The small staff care for the animals and nurse them back to health, or until they are old enough to manage on their own and then they are released back into the wild. Visitors are not welcome without an appointment so the animals do not get used to humans. Last year Critter Care ended up with 12 black bear cubs whose mothers had been shot. It's expensive to feed them. I've been a supported of this organization for a long time. You can check them out at
This is not about donating money, although that is always gratefully received, but about voting. They are try to get money through Aviva.
They need votes - one a day for the next 9 days. If they finish in the top ten they go to round two and are eligible for some of the money.  If you'd like to help them you by going to Aviva, registering and voting.
Critter Care is near the end and they have a Black Bear picture beside their name.

If you have any questions or comments about the organization let me know.
And if you vote - thanks in advance. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Everyone is going vegan these days. I’m thinking of trying it, maybe not vegan, but heading toward vegetarian, or at least trying for a healthier diet. I don’t eat a lot of red meat anymore, but I still eat chicken and seafood. I’m eliminating white bread, pasta and rice. That’s not a problem. I’m increasing my vegetables and my fruit intake. I’ve switched from regular cheese to goat cheese and from regular milk to almond milk. That was easy because I like it. I don’t use sugar, but I do like salt and my family doctor keeps telling me to throw away the salt shaker. That is so hard to do. When you’re eating fresh raw veges, like tomatoes and cucumber, that touch of salt enhances the flavor.
Anyone have any good suggestions on something to replace salt and that works as well?

I’m now going to try and cut back on caffeine. I drink herbal tea, but I really need that caffeine hit in the morning. We’ll see how that goes. I’ve switched from eggs to steel cut oats in the morning – well most mornings.  I’m not sure I can give up eggs.

Is anyone else out there vegan, vegetarian or trying to switch?  Or even just trying to eat healthier? How’s it going?
Here’s a recipe I’m using to make Lemony Brown Rice. I like it.

1 c. Brown Basmati rice                                  1 bay leaf
2 ½ c water                                                         1 ½ tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt                                                  2 tbsp fresh or ½ tbsp dried parsley
2 tsp finely grated lemon zest                   
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Bring water, salt, lemon zest and juice, bay leaf and parsley to boil. Add rice, return to boil and then lower heat and cover. Simmer for 40 minutes or until all water has been absorbed. Turn off heat; keep covered and let sit for 5 min. Remove bay leaf. Add olive oil and mix gently.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress (or not). If you have a great recipe please share it.