Halloween, All Hallows’ Eve, Samhain!

Tomorrow is Halloween! And how fortuitous that it falls on a Saturday this year.

Halloween can be traced back to the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced Saah-win, or sow-in), celebrating the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. At this time, the veil between the world of the living and the realm of the dead (the Otherworld) is at it’s thinest and the departed souls ghost could cross into the land of the living. If you would like to know more about the history of Halloween in America  – check it out here.

Americans go crazy for this time of year – it’s not just the kids who dress up and trick-or-treat, the adults do it too. Decorating your house at Halloween is also very common (approximately 50% of Americans decorate their yards at this time of year) – some go to great lengths, with a full on light and show spectacle (similar to Christmas light decorations). Google Halloween House Decorations and see what images pop up – amazing!

As Halloween isn’t really celebrated in Australia, and we are here in the US where Halloween is evidently an all in event, I thought I might embrace the culture and get involved – just a little, and try my hand at carving a pumpkin.

I acquired myself a pumpkin (not the prettiest of the bunch, since I left it a bit late and all the good ones were gone), I bought a simple carving kit and went for it. Scooping out the middle is the worst bit, but all in all, it wasn’t too bad.

My hollowed out pumpkin

My hollowed out pumpkin

Meet Jack!

Halloween_Jack

Or maybe it’s Jackie?

Halloween_Jackie

Not too bad for a first effort. I didn’t use a stencil, but did this freehand. And since I just can’t embrace the horror aspect, he’s reasonably friendly looking.

Tomorrow, we are going to our first Halloween party and Jack’s coming with us! It should be a fun night!

Fun trivia facts about Halloween:

  • One quarter of all candy sold in the USA annually is for Halloween
  • Jack-o-lanterns originated in Ireland and were made from turnips or potatoes – they were used to scare away ghosts and spirits. It wasn’t until Irish immigrants in America discovered pumpkins that a new tradition was born
  • 120 million people in America dress up for Halloween
  • Orange and black represent the colors of Halloween – orange is associated with the Fall harvest and black is associated with darkness and death

 

A Visit to Houston – part 2

Well, I had less than 48 hours in Houston (we had to high-tail it out of Houston early to beat the storm approaching as a result of hurricane Patricia), so not really enough time to explore the city; but what I did see was interesting. There are lots of tall glass buildings offering some wonderful reflections. I thought the following photo was very cool:

Building Reflections!

Downtown Houston has a wonderful system of underground pedestrian tunnels; not only does it keep you out of the way of the traffic, but keeps you out of the heat and humidity. And, boy, is Houston humid! I wouldn’t like to be here in the height of summer.

A map of Houston's underground pedestrian tunnels

A map of Houston’s underground pedestrian tunnels

However, back to the main reason for my visit; Quilt Market. This event is huge! It occupies the entire conference center in Houston. Quilt Market lasts for 3 days and is essentially a trade event where retailers within the quilting industry source products from wholesalers; but there are also training and education sessions. My friend Becky Goldsmith from Piece O’Cake was there to present at one of these “Schoolhouse” sessions (I played the role of assistant/model for the presentation) and to do a book signing:

QM_Becky_signing QM_Becky

This is a photo of Becky and I at the C&T Publishers booth:

QM_B&C

Below is one of Becky’s designs which a talented quilter (sorry I can’t recall who, so I can’t credit the owner) had entered into the Special Exhibit quilts display:

This quilt is one of Becky's designs - Piece O'Cake on display at the INternational Quilt Market and Festival

This quilt is one of Becky’s Piece O’Cake designs on display at the International Quilt Market and Festival

QM_quiltstalls Quilt Market occupied the entire ground floor of the George R Brown Convention Center. There were 29 aisles with more than 530 exhibitors. It was the largest event of it’s type that I have ever been to. In fact the International Quilt Market & International Quilt Festival (which runs for 5 days after the Quilt Market) are Houston’s biggest event! Thousands of keen quilters descend into Houston for a taste of quilter’s heaven!

QM_aisles

I saw some amazing quilts, crafts, fabrics, notions and embellishments, and embroidery, quilting and sewing machines – there are some truly talented and creative people out there.

I partake in, and enjoy many craft forms, but I have never tried quilting before; I think I may just have been converted after attending this convention and feel I may need to give it a try! Whatever I attempt, you know it will have a celtic theme though!

Anna's Amazing Applique quilts on display at Quilt Market

Anna’s Awesome Applique quilts on display at Quilt Market

There was so much to see – I just can’t share it all – but jump onto Instagram and search #QuiltMarket or Google images from Quilt Market 2015 and you will find plenty to admire and inspire – it’s a feast for anyone who loves fabrics, crafting and especially quilts! I particularly liked this clever design from a very talented (& modest) young designer – Maureen Cracknell from Art Gallery Fabrics:

QM_deerpillow

Attending Quilt Market 2015 was quite an experience (I thank Becky for the opportunity to attend) I had no idea quilting was so HUGE. I also met some amazing, friendly people and some outstanding leaders and big names within the industry. It was quite a privilege really and it has opened my eyes to the fabulous world of quilting! I wish I could have stayed for a look at the quilt festival; but it’s probably just as well I didn’t as I would have been tempted to spend way too much money. Truly a quilter’s nirvana!QM_QuiltwLove

 

A Visit to Houston

So, I am spending a couple of days in Houston with a friend.

Yesterday, after a 5 hour drive from Sherman, we took in some culture and visited the Museum of Fine Arts Houston

I was particularly taken by the Roman Vishniac photographic exhibition and his photographs of Jewish life in Eastern Europe. Many poignant and candid photos giving the viewer a real glimpse into a life that many of us can only image, particularly those taken in post war Berlin. I could have spent so much longer pouring over these images; it was fabulous.

I also got to enjoy some more classic paintings from the masters – Van Gogh, Picasso, Monet & Matisse.

  

I have seen some wonderful art whilst in Texas – we miss out on so much in Australia, where we have to wait for a special traveling exhibit.

Also at the museum is the Shadow Monsters interactive display – we made scary shadows and had fun! Great for young and old! 

  
There was also a fabulous interactive LEGO building exhibit where you could indulge your inner architect or city planner. Everyone is encouraged to add to the LEGO city creation.

  
The MFAH is a very interesting museum and is spread over 2 buildings. Between the two, is an interconnecting walkway which is a piece of art in itself – a light tunnel, where the color changes every 6 minutes.

  

If you get to go, Thursday’s are a great day to visit as entry is free!

Anyway, the reason I am in Houston is that I am accompanying a friend on a business trip – so I took the opportunity to see a little more of Texas and poke around a little in Houston. My friend is a well respected quilter and author (Becky Goldsmith) and is attending the Quilt Market in Houston. Now, this ‘convention’ is a BIG deal – I didn’t realize just how big. More later!

It’s Pumpkin Season!

1pumpkinI think I may have only just realised that Americans are just a little bit obsessed with the humble pumpkin.

If you have ever been in American during the autumnal season, you will know that Fall brings cooler temperatures, and colour-changing leaves, but it also brings an overwhelming display of pumpkins and anything and everything associated with pumpkins. I believe the pumpkin must be the unofficial symbol of autumn in the US; pumpkins are literally EVERYWHERE! I can’t liken this to anything similar in the Southern hemisphere, it is something uniquely American.

If you read my last blog about visiting the Dallas Arboretum’s Fall Festival – you might get a bit of an idea of what I am talking about – you will have seen some of the photos I took of all the pumpkins there – and the parents and children clamouring for photos with them. Yes, even I got amongst it and got a photo with some of the thousands of pumpkins on display there.

Catherine_PumkpinPatch

Decorator pumpkins

Decorator pumpkins

 

When I have been out shopping, it is impossible not to note that it is the season for pumpkins! Pumpkins adorn all sorts of decorator and household items for you to take home. Both food stores and hobby stores are all too willing to help you decorate for the Fall/Harvest season. Pumpkins themselves are also used as decorator items – you can buy bags of mini pumpkins, as well as the larger varieties (both real and artificial) to decorate with.

Pumpkins

Pumpkin_pieBesides decorating with pumpkins, the flavour of pumpkins has infiltrated it’s way into just about every food group as well. The pumpkin pie is, of course, an old favourite, but consumers are now inundated with pumpkin-spice flavoured everything!

PumpkinSpice_coffee

Dunkin Donuts pumpkin spice coffee

The fault probably lies with Starbucks who introduced a seasonal pumpkin spice latte in 2003 – since then the number of items with a pumpkin spice flavour seems to have risen exponentially. Others have jumped on the bandwagon and offer pumpkin spice flavoured coffee at the supermarket:

Pumpkin_Coffee

McCafe pumpkin spice coffee

You can now find pumpkin spice flavoured Oreos, pumpkin spice flavoured M&M’s, pumpkin spice air freshener as well as everything from pumpkin-spice flavoured beer to pumpkin-spice flavoured chocolate! I am convinced America has gone a little pumpkin-spice crazy!

Here are a few items I came across whilst shopping recently:

Pumokin-Ale_Shocktop

Pumpkin Ale

Pumpkin_muffins

Pumpkin Muffins

Pumpkin_cupcakes

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

Pumpkin_Cider

Pumpkin Cider – no, I didn’t try it!

Pumpkin_Chocolate

Pumpkin Chocolate!?

Pumpkin_almonds

Pumpkin Spice Almonds

Pumkin_BelVita

Pumpkin Spice biscuits

I have to admit, I haven’t actually tried any of these, but – has it all gone too far?

Pumpkins at the Arboretum – Autumn is here!

One thing I really love about America is how the arrival of each season is celebrated wholeheartedly.

Autumn has now arrived in the northern hemisphere, so there are plenty of decorations around celebrating Fall and Harvest; with many scarecrows, hay bales and pumpkins! All the stores and so many porches and balconies around town are displaying their Fall decorations. It is wonderful!

harvest-decorfall-home-decor-2

Fall_signToday I went to visit the Dallas Arboretum with a friend to take a look at their Fall Festival, which features a huge pumpkin patch – with more than 75,000 pumpkins, squash and gourds. It was amazing! I had such a wonderful time; I just had to share – Here are a few photos:

Fall_Texas_pumpkins

Fall_UglyPumpkinPatch

Fall_PumpkinBed

Fall_PumpkinPath

I have been to the Arboretum twice before (one of which was for the Springtime bloom event) and it has been great every time. A visit to the gardens is truly delightful and there is something to see at any time of the year. If you are ever in Dallas – go; you won’t regret it. It also has a fabulous Children’s Adventure Garden for the kiddies (and adults).