Currently viewing the tag: "Halloween"

Second Annual Thurmont Great Pumpkin Pick Up

The Thurmont Green Team will be sponsoring the Second Annual Great Pumpkin Pick Up for the residents of Thurmont on Saturday, November 25, beginning at 9:00 a.m. Residents should place their Halloween and Thanksgiving pumpkins on the curb by 8:30 a.m. that morning for pick up by volunteers. Please, no rotten pumpkins.

Last year, volunteers from the Green Team and community organizations and businesses traveled the streets of Thurmont, collecting between 600-700 pumpkins, saving them from the landfill and providing food and fun for the animals at the Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and area farms.

Households are no longer displaying just one or two pumpkins on their porch—many now decorate with up to 10 pumpkins of varying colors and sizes. Each year, more than one billion pounds of pumpkins are thrown away in the United States, making their way to landfills, where they take a long time to decompose, emitting methane which is 80 percent more potent or powerful than carbon dioxide and is ultimately linked to climate change. The EPA reports that food waste contributes to 22 percent of landfill waste. Organic waste, including pumpkins, which are 90 percent water, does not properly break down in oxygen-deprived landfills. Pumpkin waste is great for our soil, but not for our landfills.

If you do not live within the Thurmont town limits, please think about starting a pumpkin pick up for your town or at the very least find a way to compost your pumpkin and other food waste or drop your pumpkin off at the bin in front of the Catoctin Wildlife Preserve. The animals and the earth will thank you.

This year’s event hopes to top 1,000 pumpkins, so make sure to save your pumpkins from the trash and place them on the curb on November 25. Remember, No Pumpkin Left Behind! We’ll publish the results of this year’s pick up in the December issue.

If you would like to volunteer or receive more information about organizing a Pumpkin Pick Up for your town, please contact the Town of Thurmont at 301-271-7313.

Pick-up truck load of pumpkins from 2022.

It’s Party Time!

by Valerie Nusbaum

Let me start off by wishing each and every one of you a happy fall season, or as my Aunt Faye would have said, “Happy Fall Y’all!”

I might as well wish everyone a happy Halloween, too. October 31 will roll around before we know it, followed by Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and all the other fall holidays. 

I don’t know about you, but I’m just not ready. Maybe the horribly hot summer had something to do with that. I’m definitely ready for cooler temperatures, but all the work that goes into all the holidays has me feeling exhausted just thinking about it. Instead, I’m thinking about past good times and relishing the fact that I don’t have to work any harder than I choose to this year.

Randy and I, and my parents before us, have always enjoyed a good Halloween party. I’m reminded of several parties we either threw or attended, where one thing led to another and things got out of hand.

There was a work party years ago when Randy and I both worked at a local bank. Roxann and Harry Welch and Randy and I got the bright idea to wear a joint costume. Randy suggested that we all go as a hand, with each one of us being a finger, and carrying the thumb along. We made the costume out of carpet padding, and that thing weighed a ton. We had to lie down and wriggle up into the fingers and then we had a terrible time getting upright.  Not to mention that we had to crowd into an elevator and no one had a hand free to push the buttons. We’d cut holes in the finger pads for our faces, and so we could breathe, but we wore plastic masks so that our co-workers wouldn’t recognize us.   Needless to say, we came out of the hand as soon as possible, which was a good thing because we had to run all over Frederick in the dark finding things for a scavenger hunt. Randy and Harry may or may not have done something illegal. That’s all I’m saying.

Once, my family rented a huge building and had a very large party.  At our parties, guests can wear anything they want, and they don’t have to come in costume at all if that’s not their thing. Randy and I spent all day doing elaborate decorations, even creating a maze for guests to walk through. It was pretty great. One person even suggested that we open it to the public and charge admission.  We didn’t do that. We did, however, do a murder mystery that year. Every guest had a part to play. It got a little crazy because, as we all know, people can’t follow directions or stick to a script.

Our friends, the Heffner-Joneses, throw a themed costume party almost every year. One year, the theme was Downton Abbey. It was fun dressing in 1920s attire that night. Another time, the theme was Harry Potter.  Randy went as Farmer Brown and I was a black and white cow because those were the costumes we had on hand. Mind you, Randy had to re-write one of the Potter novels to include those characters, but our hosts were so impressed by Randy’s invented story that he won first prize in whatever contest was being held. 

Last year, we were instructed to come dressed as our favorite country or rock and roll act. Naturally, we went as The Village People. Yes, I know there are only two of us and six Village People. Randy was the construction worker, and I was the cowboy. We carried small versions of the other four. Most of the guests didn’t get it, and Randy’s mustache wouldn’t stay on.

Another year, we hosted a party here and invited my cousins and elderly aunts. My mom was with us then, too. We had to call the paramedics for that one, and the party ended earlier than intended.

It’s always fun when hosting a Halloween party to come up with delicious-tasting but horribly gross or scary food. I’ve created werewolf fingers and bloody dipping sauce, a Jack o’lantern that threw up guacamole, tiny sandwiches shaped like bats and ghosts, and Jack o’lantern pepperoni pizzas.

There have been other Halloween/fall celebrations, such as the time we had a scarecrow-making contest. That one got combative pretty quickly, and the prize was only a box of candy. 

One year, at the Murphy’s house, Mr. Murphy dressed up as Pippi Longstocking and Aunt Gladys was a gorilla. This was notable because both of those folks were older then than I am now. They were good sports, but they did have a few problems playing charades while wearing their costumes.

My brother, our friends, and I used to go to our Grandmother Ella’s house in West Virginia to help her out with trick-or-treat since she had hundreds of kids come by each year. We’d dress up and decorate the yard and scare the kids, and our grandmother would have treats inside for us. She used to make homemade gingerbread with a warm lemon sauce to pour over it.  Delicious!

As I look back on all these good times, I’m especially grateful for good friends and a wonderful family, and also that I’ll probably be at home in my pajamas this year.

by Valerie Nusbaum

My mother passed away recently, and as lots of you know from your own experience with loss, this is a very difficult time. I hope you’ll indulge me as I share some thoughts and memories of happy times with Mom.

Autumn was my mom’s favorite time of year. She loved it when the nights got cooler, and the leaves turned vibrant, beautiful colors. She and I took at least one leaf-peeping ride through the mountains every year and each time she’d exclaim that that year was more colorful than the last. Now, I’ll think of Mom every year when the leaves change colors and will miss our outings.

Mom loved all the fall holidays, but she had a special fondness for Halloween, particularly in her later years. Since Randy and I live on a corner in a well-lit housing development with sidewalks, we tend to get trick-or-treaters in droves. Most of the kids aren’t from our neighborhood, and we rarely know any of them, but most years, we try to have candy and treats on hand for at least the first 300 or so.  Mom enjoyed coming here for trick-or-treat, and she always contributed candy to the pot. We started this tradition when she was around 70 years old. We kept it up through last year when she got too tired to sit at her post and had to quit before the candy ran out. Mom’s “post” was sitting in our living room in the middle of our big bay window.  I’d place a chair there for her so that she could see everything and everyone on the street and in our driveway. She was a good sport and dressed up in any costume I had for her. I’d decorate the window to match a given year’s theme, and Mom played along. 

One year, I made her an owl with a feathered mask and wings.  She was a spider woman once, and another time, a witch. Mom sat amid the spider webs and varmints, and she used a flashlight held under her chin to scare the kids. She cracked herself up. She especially loved looking at the little ones’ costumes, and year after year, she fussed about the big kids being too old. Mom could always be counted on to say, “Well, what’s that baby going to do with the candy? He doesn’t even have teeth yet.” Randy, bless him, sat on the steps beneath the bay window to pass out treats so that Mom could be right on top of things without getting cold.

Each Halloween, I tried to make a little party for us, and I always had themed snacks like Jack o’lantern pizza, bat sandwiches, and werewolf fingers dipped in “blood.” Every fall, without fail, I could look forward to a batch of Mom’s pumpkin muffins and a breakfast of pumpkin pancakes. My mother started that whole pumpkin spice thing. I’m going to miss those muffins and pancakes. My own will never taste as good.

One year, I threw a family party for Halloween. My cousins made the trip here from three states away, along with my two aunts from Jefferson County, West Virginia. Things were going along pretty well until Randy brought out his picture search game.  He’d printed a holiday drawing off the internet, but he unintentionally cut the bottom off the picture so no one was able to find several of the items in the search. It was getting pretty noisy, and then Mom couldn’t figure out the word search, and she insisted that the word haunted was nuthead. The next thing I knew, Mom was having a full-blown attach of vertigo, and we had to call the ambulance. You know it’s a good party when the paramedics show up.

There were other Halloween parties, too.  One year, Mom dressed as a fortune teller and read everyone’s palm while looking in her crystal ball. Since the crystal ball was actually a glass paperweight with a rose inside it, everyone’s life was going to be rosy.

Another year, Mom participated in trick-or-treat at her home in Brunswick. There weren’t too many kids, but Mom ran out of candy anyway—probably because my dad (who was still with us at the time) had eaten most of it. Mom made poor Randy go down to her basement and dig through the freezer for candy that she had frozen to avoid eating. One poor kid got a wrapped, frozen Santa in his bag.

For another Halloween treat, Randy and I took Mom to the Sea Witch Festival in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. It was a fun time for us, but Mom saw a whole lot of things that shocked her, and she didn’t want to go back there the following year.

My mother so loved going to the Halloween Spirit store in Charles Town. I could hear her all over the store, jumping up and down and laughing. The clerk heard it, too, and asked me if I needed to go check on my child. I explained that what she heard was my then 85-year-old mother. Mom was too little to activate the sensors just by stepping on them, so she had to jump on them in order to make the figures move and make noise. She was child-like in her delight of things, and I’ll miss that most of all. 

Happy Halloween to all of you!

Valerie’s mom, Wanda Zombro, and a mystery man at Halloween 2018.

Spooky Succulent Garden

by Ana Morlier

Happy October, everyone! Looks like it’s time to put down the pumpkin-spiced lattes and pull out your next great costume. The season of free candy, spooks, and transforming into your favorite character is upon us!

Halloween is drawing closer and closer, with its anticipation following close behind. Even though the status of trick-or-treating may be uncertain, there is one fun activity that we can all take part in: decorating!

Jack-o-lanterns, ghosts, and talking animatronics seem to be standard decor these days. It seems difficult to make a statement when pretty much everyone has a talking head on their lawn. It’s also difficult to stay family-friendly. Having your favorite horror movie characters seemingly alive on your lawn sounds great in theory. However, it’s not as fun when you have a dozen laughing clowns scaring your trick-or-treaters away (with angry parents in tow). Likewise, just when you have admired your work of angling your projector just right, you have to change out your decorations for cornucopias. October seems to come and go so quickly!

Luckily for you, reader of the Banner, I have come upon a decoration that is sustainable, family-friendly, and spooky!

Here’s a list of what you will need for your Spooky Succulent Garden:

Small wooden coffin box or a rectangular wooden box (preferably, small; can be found at the Dollar Store. You may need to paint your coffin!);

Your favorite succulents [Try these to set a spooky mood: Black Hens and Chicks, Black Zebra Cactus (Haworthia), Chocolate drop stonecrop, Zwartkop, Arachnacantha, Black Knight, Black rose, and Living Stones];

A mini skeleton (or one to fit your coffin. You can also hot-glue dried pasta together to form a convincing skeleton);

Potting Soil;

Cardboard or paper;

Hot glue gun or duct tape;

Your favorite Halloween music (Thriller, anyone?).

Step 1

Paint your coffin, if desired. Fill your coffin about three-quarters of the way full, leaving room for your succulents.

Step 2

Lay your succulents to rest (in the coffin)! Position your plants however you want, just keep in mind that you will need to put your skeleton in the coffin, preferably unobstructed. Try to place a small to medium-sized succulent near the head of the coffin. You can also add a visitor by adding googly-eyes to an Old Man Cactus and planting it off to the side.

Step 3

Slightly bury your skeleton in the dirt. Cut out your paper/cardboard to look like a mini tombstone. For ease in placement, tape or glue your (colored) piece of paper to the cardboard shape, as this will also act as a better garden stake. Make sure you cut your cardboard longer than the piece of paper so that your tombstone stays deep in the dirt.

Step 4

Add whatever you wish to your spooky scene! Some ideas include air plants as your skeleton’s hair, integrating living stones as stepping stones (or other pebbles), or adding another skeleton (Do I see an arm-wrestling match in the near future?).

You can use the skeleton idea on a larger scale. A skeleton waving at guests from your garden will provide quite a bit of surprise. If you properly seal a skull or adhere it to a flowerpot, you have an eerie planter!

While your coffin planter may seem puny in comparison to your neighbor’s life-sized werewolf animatronic, it will startle your next party guest and stay around all year-round. With flowers out of season, this decoration will make a chilling,  yet festive, centerpiece for your table.

May all your plants protect you this Halloween!

by Ava Morlier

Happy October! Since the holiday of this month provides many sweet flavors (halloween candy, anyone?), today’s dish is savory and warm (to fight the coming chilly temperatures): rice pilaf.

Though pilaf can seem pretty basic, its basic nature allows this dish to be versatile and easy to make. No constant incorporation of liquid is needed (much unlike a risotto); the toasted rice (providing a richer flavor) is added to liquid all at once. Today’s recipe plays up the versatile nature of the dish, taking flavor cues from Mediterranian tastes. Ingredients such as curry powder (provides a subtle flavor boost to the dish, perfect for those wanting to try a traditional pilaf dish but aren’t fans of regular curry), golden raisins (adds elements of color, chewiness, and sweet contrast to the mainly savory flavors of this dish), and the addition of chopped cashews (brings a boost of texture and a slightly sweet creamy flavor) may seem different, but provides a powerful flavor punch that boosts this dish from mundane to mouthwatering.

Enjoy your October, and may this dish warm you and your family in these increasingly colder days!

Rice Pilaf with Raisins and Veggies


3 cups chicken broth

2 tbsp. butter or olive oil

4 stalks celery

½ large onion

4 green onions

3 cloves garlic

1 tbsp. curry powder

½ tsp. salt

1 ½ cups rice (white or brown)

½ c. golden raisins

¼ cups chopped cashews (optional)


Put the pot on medium heat and add chicken broth; let simmer. Heat pan on medium heat. Wash and chop celery, onion. and green onions (divide the green and white parts and chop); mince garlic. Measure out rice and set aside.

Once the pot is warm, melt butter (or add oil). Add celery, white part of green onion, and onion to pan; season with curry powder and salt and cook until tender (5 minutes). Add garlic and cook until aromatic (10 seconds).

Take vegetables out of the pan and set aside. Turn heat down to medium-low. Add rice to pan and let cook until lightly toasted (3 minutes). Make sure rice is evenly distributed throughout the pan in order to ensure every grain is toasted and not burnt.

Once toasted, add to simmering chicken stock. Turn heat down to medium-low. Let cook for about 15 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed by the rice. Take off of the heat.

Add vegetables, golden raisins, and the chopped green onion tops. Stir until well combined; serve.

Tools Needed

1 large pot, 1 skillet, spatula, cutting board, chef’s knife, liquid and solid measuring utensils, spoon, fork, medium bowl.

*With Credit to Jaquine’s Rice Pilaf with Raisins and Veggies recipe on

Lis Ruppel

The Thurmont Middle School (TMS) LEOs have been very busy the past couple of months. During October and November, TMS LEOs held a coat drive in conjunction with the Thurmont Lions Club Coat Drive for Make a Difference Day. The LEOs collected multiple bags of coats, which were combined with the other coats collected by Lion Marci Veronie and sent to be dry cleaned. Some of the coats were then distributed to kids and families in the TMS community in need, with the help of TMS Community Outreach Coordinator Kelly Pizza.

For Halloween, the TMS LEOs held a Costume Contest fundraiser. For a small fee, students could wear their costumes to school on Halloween. A contest was held at lunchtime, with judging by the lunch staff. An Amazon gift card was given for the best costume from each grade level. The TMS LEOs voted to use some of the money raised to buy a Thanksgiving dinner for a family in need at TMS.

Teacher Melanie Ware spoke with both Food Lion and Weis. With their generous assistance, she was able to put together baskets with food for Thanksgiving dinner for two families. Kelly Pizza distributed the baskets. In December, the LEOs assisted the Language Arts Department at TMS with its Food Drive by collecting the donated food and loading it into Ms. Ware’s car for delivery to the food bank. They also voted to fund several Christmas dinner baskets the same way they had done for the Thanksgiving baskets.

On the final day of school before the winter break, TMS LEOs held a “Holiday Hat” fundraiser, where students could wear a festive holiday hat to school for a small fee. After school let out, the LEOs met at Thurmont Regional Library for a Holiday Party and Secret Santa gift exchange. TMS LEOs are looking forward to an exciting 2020, filled with fun and service!

by Valerie Nusbaum

This column is for the November issue, so it should be about Thanksgiving and/or being grateful for what we have. In truth, I’m writing this in early October and Thanksgiving is just a blip on my radar at this point.

I’m in the middle of getting things ready for Randy’s and my 24th wedding anniversary (October 15), and I’m hoping the weather will cooperate enough for us to get away for overnight or at least for a day trip. I’ve bought a couple of things for Randy and I got him a nice card, but remembering where I’ve put them is something else entirely, and I fear that the hunt will involve me cleaning up my studio.

Writing this column, I know Catoctin Colorfest is coming up and the town is busting loose, so I need to be aware that I can’t come and go as usual for the next few days.

I’m planning a Halloween get-together for my cousins and extended family, and we’re also preparing for trick or treat. Trick or treat would be a no-brainer for most people, but we have between 300-400 little goblins that descend upon us each year and that takes a lot of candy, not to mention that we try to do some yard decorating and that Randy wears a costume while he passes out treats and takes abuse from the little darlings.

It’s been a crazy week, and I haven’t had much time to get things done at home. Mom, Randy, and I have all had doctor’s appointments this week. I also made a pilgrimage to a new dentist because I will most likely need a root canal. The exterminator was here on Tuesday and the air conditioner repairman came on Wednesday. In between all of this, there was work, the yard guy was here, and I took Mom to Walmart. If the mailman is Randy’s nemesis, Walmart is mine.

Maybe that’s why I was thrown for a loop when I ordered a Southwest salad at the McDonald’s in Brunswick and was given a spoon for eating it. Seriously? The store was out of knives and forks. The kid at the cash register couldn’t think to tell me that when I ordered my salad? Needless to say, this didn’t end well and I can’t go back to that McDonald’s.

Sensing that I was gearing up for a meltdown, Randy thought he’d distract me with an episode of the Halloween Baking Championship on the Food Network. I love those shows. One of this season’s contestants is a young man with a lovely Carribbean accent. As we watched this guy bake, Randy looked over at me and said, “Well, that makes no sense at all.”

I asked what he meant, and he said that he’d been sure this particular contestant was from Jamaica. I still didn’t understand what he was getting at, so he explained. “The guy just said, ‘We don’t do dat in Ireland.’”

The guy actually said, “We don’t do that on our island.” And this is how we watch television at our house. One of us interprets for the other, and we take turns doing it.

Now, I wouldn’t want you to think that I’m not even contemplating Thanksgiving. I have given it some thought. In fact, I posed a question to my Facebook friends and asked them to tell me their preferred way to cook a turkey. More than one person responded that they prefer their turkey to be cooked by someone else. A few offered up smoking as a method of choice, but most people told me that they’ll do a turkey the traditional way by roasting it in the oven with something stuffed in the cavity. A lot of us do a covered roaster method to make broth for use in gravy and dressing.

I also asked people to name their favorite Thanksgiving side dish. A surprising number of people said sweet potatoes. I like sweet potatoes done many different ways, but my favorite way is mashed up in a casserole with a crunchy, sweet pecan topping. Randy prefers them on someone else’s plate, but he’ll eat them if I go to the trouble of making them. The sweet potato casserole I like best takes two days to make from scratch, or I can buy a very similar one for $3.49 at Aldi.  It fits perfectly in my fancy white casserole dish, and no one knows the difference.

We had a debate over the difference between dressing and stuffing. Dressing wins out at our house. I don’t stuff my turkey.  Randy and I like dressing with lots of celery and onions. If you’re in a pinch and can’t make your own, Mountain Gate has a delicious stuffing/dressing.

Also, I can’t stress enough that a fresh turkey tastes best.  For us, part of the tradition of Thanksgiving is standing in line on the Wednesday before the holiday at Hillside Turkey Farms to pick up our fresh bird. I have nothing against a frozen turkey. I’ve cooked my share of them, but once a year I like to go for broke.

No matter what your food preferences are or how frantic or unsettling your lives have been recently, I hope you’ll join me in taking a few minutes to realize that we all have things for which we are grateful. For me, it’s family, friends, and all of you who read my words each month.

Happy Thanksgiving!

P.S.  Thank you, Barb, for the delicious banana crème pie!


by Valerie Nusbaum

The year was 1993. The air was turning cooler and the leaves were changing from green to vivid shades of orange, yellow, and red.  Apples were ripe for picking, and the holidays were just around the corner.  We were happy to pull out our sweaters.

I remember it well. The month was October, and I was dating a strapping young man named Randy. We were excited to discover that we both loved Halloween, so we decided to throw a party. Not just a regular party. We were hosting a costumed murder mystery party for our friends and families. What could go wrong?

We spent the entire month planning the murder and making decorations. Food was easy. We’d have orange punch and Halloween-themed sandwiches (pimento cheese on pumpernickel bread, cut into the shape of bats; cream cheese on white bread, cut into ghost shapes; mini pizzas decorated with pepperoni Jack o’lantern faces; and all manner of gory, bloody treats).

I rented the recreation center in the park. It was a big building so we had a LOT to do. My friend, Roxann, helped me shred paper to fill orange plastic “pumpkin” bags and to fill the giant black spider.  Randy picked up bales of straw and corn shocks from the farms around Walkersville. Mom and Mary baked cupcakes and made candy. We planned our costumes and worried over the guest list.

Party day arrived. Randy and I loaded his Bronco and my car and headed off to the park. I had already picked up the key, so we went inside the building to get it ready. We didn’t realize that we’d have to clean the entire building, including bathrooms, before we could put up our decorations. Luckily, we’d gotten there earlier than planned and we were young, energetic, and enthused. My, how things have changed in 25 years.

We set up tables and covered them with cloths and centerpieces. Electric candles and strings of lights were hung everywhere, along with spider webs and ghostly masks. We made a bunch of life-size scarecrows and monsters by stuffing newspapers into clothes and attaching masks to balloon faces.  They looked pretty darned scary, if I do say so myself. We had eerie music and haunted house sounds, strobe lights, and black lights, along with furry, slimy creepy-crawly things scattered all around. We set up a graveyard on the stage for people to wander through. I can’t say this often enough: It was a big building.

I ran home to clean up and change into my costume. Aunt Shirley had loaned me her Elvira, Mistress of the Dark wig, and I was wearing ghoul makeup and a white flowing gown and cape—and fangs, of course. Randy was a headless man. We’d covered his head with a cardboard box, leaving breathing room, naturally, and covered the whole thing with a black robe. He was carrying his “head” under his arm.  The head didn’t look at all happy. Randy wasn’t happy either because the box kept falling off his shoulders.

My dad was wearing a glow-in-the-dark “Scream” mask and black robe, and we’d stationed him outside the building to usher guests inside with a flashlight. Lauren was our tour guide, and she welcomed people to the party and guided them on their tour of the building. Lauren was either Peter Pan or Robin Hood.  I’ve never figured out which. During the tour, Randy was stationed in one hallway in his headless costume, and Harry was in the other hallway. Harry was covered in blood and had a knife sticking out of him. Roxann was a witch, inviting people to stick their hands in her cauldron. Mind you, this was all done in the near-dark. My mother was a gypsy fortune teller, and as guests passed her table, Mom looked into her crystal ball and told their futures. Everyone had a rosy future according to Mom, mostly because the crystal ball was a snowglobe with a big rose inside it, but that’s neither here nor there.  I was waiting inside the storage area, and I managed to make a few people shriek.

Mary came as The Great Pumpkin, Bill was the Lone Ranger, and Linda was a witch. Pat was a witch, too, and so was Vicki. We had a plethora of black hats that night. Anita was a football player, Johnny was a nerd, Gail was a leopard, and Emma was a cat. Cindy showed up wearing a trench coat, and we thought she was a spy until she opened her coat and we saw that she was wearing big, rubber body parts in the appropriate places. They were BIG parts in case you didn’t catch that part. I can’t remember who else was there that night. People were wearing costumes and I didn’t see all their faces. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I asked Randy and he can’t remember either. It was a long time ago.

I do remember that we opted not to bob for apples. Randy had a better idea. He hung powdered-sugar donuts on strings and had the guests put their hands behind their backs and eat the donuts while he jiggled the string. Randy thought the donuts would be less messy than apples in a tub of water. He was wrong. Cindy won the contest and the rest of the donuts as her prize. Great big carpenter ants had found their way into the box. Luckily, Cindy didn’t see that and we were able to get rid of it without her finding out.

Suddenly, there was a scream and a shout. Someone had been murdered! Honestly, it took our crew two hours to solve a simple murder because they all wanted to eat and drink.  My dad (the “body”) took a nap while he lay on the floor. The guy who was supposed to play the part of the murderer hadn’t shown up and the fill-in forgot his lines. Vicki knocked the head off one of the witches. I think it was one of the fake ones. A good time was had by all, or most. I don’t know. I can’t remember.

Wishing you a happy and memorable Halloween.

by Anita DiGregory

Thanks & Giving

Thanksgiving is nearly upon us.  I love Thanksgiving—the faith-based tradition, the family-time, the fun, the food, and the feasting.  Quietly nestled between the sugar overload of Halloween and the incessant over-commercialization of Christmas (I honestly think some retailers had Christmas decorations displayed in September this year!), Thanksgiving has remained a humble holiday, steeped in tradition and rich in meaning. Even in a time when patriotism has somehow become controversial, Thanksgiving continues to bring people together and unite them around tables across the country. Although the holiday only happens once a year, teaching, modeling, and reinforcing the ideas of “thanks” and “giving,” has scientifically been proven to help both adults and children to be happier and healthier.

Dr. Robert Emmons from the University of California has conducted numerous scientific studies on gratitude. The findings reported from experiencing and demonstrating gratitude included many psychological, physical, and social benefits. Researchers found that gratitude resulted in feelings of alertness and wakefulness and higher levels of joy, pleasure, optimism, and other positive emotions. Benefits also included improved immune systems and blood pressure and decreased aches and pains. Grateful individuals were more apt to exercise, practice healthy living, and experience healthier sleep patterns.  Thankful participants were less lonely, demonstrated better social interactions, and displayed more signs of being forgiving, outgoing, helpful, compassionate, and generous.

Instilling a strong sense of gratitude in our children is a necessary and powerful tool in equipping them to become happy, healthy adults. According to Halloween author Christine Carter, Ph.D., grateful children may grow into happier grown-ups. Carter, director of the Greater Good Parents program at the University of California at Berkeley, states, “Pioneering social scientists think that 40 percent of our happiness comes from intentional, chosen activities throughout the day. Thankfulness is not a fixed trait. It’s a skill that can be cultivated, like kicking a soccer ball or speaking French.” Therefore, consistently teaching and encouraging our children to be grateful is vital. Here are some ideas for helping children to grow in gratitude.


Lead by Example. Children are great imitators, and little eyes are always watching. As parents, we can send a powerful message to our children by modeling grateful behavior. By taking the time and effort to say thank you and being openly and enthusiastically thankful to others for opening a door, making a meal, or helping out, we demonstrate gratitude.


Put it in Writing.  Help your child write a thank you note to someone who has helped them, perhaps a teacher, coach, bus driver, or school crossing guard. Help them hand deliver their special note.


Make it Fun. Children learn more when their lessons are real and entertaining. Try doing an ongoing gratitude activity. Last year, during the month of November, I constructed a gratitude tree with my two youngest children. We designed the trunk out of construction paper and taped it to a prominent wall in our home. Each day, they wrote on colored, construction paper leaves one thing for which they were thankful. By Thanksgiving, we had a wonderful, colorful display of their gratitude for all to enjoy.


Make Gratitude a Habit. Help your children to be thankful each day. Help them design a gratitude journal, where they can draw or write about what they are thankful for that day. Incorporate giving thanks into nighttime prayers, when each child can think back on the day and list those things for which he or she is grateful.


Thankfulness goes hand-in-hand with giving. Thanksgiving.  By teaching our children to give of themselves—to give their time, talent, and treasure, one small act at a time—we empower them to make a difference in a world that could use a lot of work. With small acts of kindness, we can change not only ourselves for the better, but the world as well. Ralph Waldo Emerson stated, “You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”  There is no better place or time then right here and right now to make a difference.

According to studies, kindness is actually contagious. David R. Hamilton, PhD., author of The Five Side Effects of Kindness, states, “When we’re kind, we inspire others to be kind, and studies show that it actually creates a ripple effect that spreads outwards to our friends’ friends’ friends—to 3-degrees of separation. Just as a pebble creates waves when it is dropped in a pond, so acts of kindness ripple outwards, touching others’ lives and inspiring kindness everywhere the wave goes.”

Additionally, scientific studies suggest that being kind is actually highly beneficial for us. A study conducted at Emory University found that when a person is kind to another, the giver’s pleasure and reward center of the brain is stimulated to that of the receiver.  This increase in pleasure is known as the “helper’s high.” Other studies have found that acts of kindness increase energy, happiness, lifespan, and serotonin, and also decrease pain, stress, anxiety, blood pressure, and depression in the giver.

Here are some things we can do with our children that may help nurture a spirit of kindness in them:  model kindness; smile; spend time with an elderly relative or neighbor; donate gently used toys, books, or clothes; visit a nursing home; help a friend in need.

According to Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD., author of The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, But Doesn’t, What Shouldn’t Make You Happy, But Does, states that almost any type of act of kindness will boost happiness in the giver. Quoting one of her study’s findings, she adds, “when 9 to 11-year old kids were asked to do acts of kindness for several weeks, not only did they get happier over time, but they became more popular with their peers.”

As parents, we are greatly helping our children, ourselves, and the world by instilling in them a sense of gratitude and a genuine desire to be kind to others…true thanksgiving.

Tis the Season

by Valerie Nusbaum

It’s September as I’m writing this column. The kids have gone back to school, and summer is pretty much over. I can hardly wrap my mind around those facts. Thanksgiving is only two months away, Christmas is closer than I care to imagine, and Halloween is almost upon us.

September and October used to be very busy months for Randy and me because early autumn is the time when all the fall festivals and outdoor arts and crafts shows are held. Back in the day, we used to participate in at least four or five festivals and shows annually.  It was a fun way for us to spend time together, as we sat in our tent and sold our handmade wood items, watercolor prints, potpourri, jewelry, candles and floral arrangements. Over the years, we’ve handcrafted everything from holiday ornaments to wall hangings and yard decorations. Christmas trees, crab mallets, greeting cards—you name it, we’ve made it.

Last year, we more or less retired from the arts and crafts business. The work involved in setting up and tearing down for a two-day show is very hard on our old joints. Not to mention that two or three days of dealing with people wears a body out.

I don’t know how those of you who work in retail manage it.  Shoppers and lookers can be very rude, sometimes without meaning to. Plus, the weather doesn’t always cooperate, and it’s no fun in the rain.

In November, Randy and I said goodbye to Catoctin Colorfest, after many years of setting up our tent in the Community Park. Yes, we’ll miss all the shows and our friends, but we will still be able to attend and do some shopping, and we’ll finally be able to get something to eat! Who knows? We might miss it so much that we’ll find ourselves wanting to get back into it. Maybe when Randy actually retires, and we have some time on our hands.

If you’re a person who enjoys getting out in the beautiful fall weather and looking at all the interesting items for sale, I’m giving you a helpful list to make your craft show experience a happy one. Read on.


Eleven Things You Should Never Say to an Artist or a Craftsperson


“I/My husband/My kid could make that.” FYI: We don’t care.


“I saw one of those at Walmart, and it was cheaper there.” Good for you. Chances are the item you saw at Walmart wasn’t handmade. That’s probably why it cost less.

“Did you make/paint/draw that?” Most juried craft shows or art fairs require that the items for sale be handmade and that the person who actually did the making be the one selling. So, yes, I made it. Duh.

“Will you give me a discount or take less for it?” Craft shows are not flea markets. Most of us vendors never get paid for the amount of time we spend making our art. We can’t afford to give discounts or offer sales. The really good shows prohibit price haggling or sales.

“Can you give me directions for making that?” Sure, but why would I do that? I have a whole table full of things I’m trying to sell.

“That’s very nice, but I don’t know where I’d put it.” On Saturday morning, I might respond with a “thank you,” but by Sunday afternoon, I might have a few suggestions for where you could put it.

“Would you make one for me?”  See #5.

“You remind me of my grandmother.” Unless your grandmother was Georgia O’Keeffe or Frida Kahlo, I might be a little offended by that statement.

“I really need to start selling my own work.” Please do, so I can come by your booth and make you feel bad.

“I don’t have the time to craft/paint/sew.” Then what, pray tell, do you do with all that free time? Sleep?

“Yes, but this isn’t, like, a real job.” No, it isn’t. I work much longer hours for lots less money and even less appreciation.

So, as you can see, I really did need a little break from the business. I’m still selling online and doing an occasional exhibit or small indoor show, and I’ll probably always paint or make some crafts for the sheer pleasure it gives me. I just found selling it in-person is too exhausting. Randy has had so many other things going on in his life in recent years that he, too, needs some time to regroup.

We’ll carry with us many pleasant memories of our vending days. One, in particular, still makes me smile. It was during Catoctin Colorfest, and it had been a long day. A young father came into our tent with his small son. The little boy was looking at some of my prints and seeming to enjoy himself. The father came over and whispered that his son loved to draw and paint, and asked if the boy could ask me a question.

“Sure,” I said.

The boy was about five years old, and he very seriously asked, “How do you stay inside the lines so good?”

I answered him honestly when I said, “I don’t always, and that’s OK.”

Happy Fall, y’all!

Deb Spalding Folklore suggests that signs and symbols determine our fate. Have good luck if you find a penny or start the day with a double-yoke egg; have bad luck if you break a mirror or have a black cat cross your path. These superstitions can become pretty detailed, like having a rabbit or squirrel cross your path to the right means an easy journey, while the same crossing to the left suggests peril. Well, I’d like to know what happens when the squirrel starts right, then jumps straight up in the air, hits the ground and stares at you, then darts back to the left. That must mean I’m really misdirected, right? It would appear that these traditions of lore are a bunch of “hoopydo” to me. I put them in the same category as ghosts, goblins, and witches, but I also know that many enjoy the good fun of Halloween. So, to prepare for this spooky article, I’ve been asking people about their ghostly encounters. Most don’t seem to have many, or at least that they’ll share. Short on leads, I read blogs on the internet, consulted books, and talked to our local historian/tourism expert/ghost tour docent, Roger Troxell for some tips. My research also included information from, Patrick Boyton’s book, Snallygaster, The Lost Legend of Frederick County; and Paula M. Strain’s book Tales of Mountain Maryland, as well as several other internet sites. The following is a glimpse of some real, or as real as we can remember, ghostly stories in our area. I will state that the facts may be clouded with retelling, or they may not be facts at all.   The Ghost on Main Street The Overall Man, named because he was seen, or imagined, wearing overalls, haunted a house on Main Street in Thurmont for several years. The Overall Man was a jokester. He would pull the covers off in the middle of the night, turn on the lights throughout the house, close all of the bedroom doors when they were left open, move the silverware around in the drawers, and manipulate utensils before your very eyes. He’s not been talked about for several years, and it is unknown if he has moved on, but it can be said that he had a fun spirit (pun intended). Grandmother Rings from Heaven A Sabillasville lady claimed that the spirit of her late grandmother would ring her phone at the same time every evening. Two rings. This was a rotary phone that her grandmother used every day and now held a special, sentimental value to the lady. She displayed it prominently on her nightstand. The puzzling part — the phone was not connected to any outlet. It didn’t even have a cord. The Flute Player Larry Dielman is said to visit the grave of his father in the Grotto of Lourdes Cemetery above Mount St. Mary’s University every year on Christmas Eve. An avid banjo player most of his life, it was not until his father, Prof. Henry Casper Dielman, a noted classical musician and composer both in his native Germany and later in the United States, died, that Larry learned to play the flute to honor him. His father had led symphony orchestras in Philadelphia, New York, and Baltimore, and in 1843, he joined the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, where he taught music and composed the Christmas carol With Glory Lit the Midnight Air. It is said that, if you listen carefully on a clear, windless Christmas Eve, that you can hear Larry playing the flute at his father’s grave.   The Snallygaster This creature first made its appearance in the Middletown Valley and Catoctin Mountains in the early twentieth century. It was described in the Tales of Mountain Maryland as bird-like and reptilian, a flying dragon with one eye. The Snallygaster was believed to be one of few of its kind in the area, for it was believed that eyewitnesses saw it die when it visited a whiskey still and drowned in a vat of liquor. The evidence of the creature was destroyed when two Federal Agents set the still with explosives and blew up the creature and the still. According to Boyton’s research, a March 5, 1909 edition of the Emmitsburg Chronicle reported that Ed Brown, an employee with the Western Maryland Railroad, encountered the Snallygaster when it stole some of his coal. The winged creature swooped down from above and “seized him by the suspenders.” Mr. Brown was rescued when his friend Bill Snider grabbed Brown by the foot. The two men, joined by Dan Shorb of Emmmitsburg, fought the creature for a reported hour and a half ending with it being chased into the woods. It is said that the creature headed for Emmitsburg where deputy game warden Capt. Norman Hoke showed it his badge and, “backed by the full authority of the law,” ordered it from the county. His words had little effect on the creature, but Clarence Fraley “loaded a gun with croquet balls and slag and shot at it.”   Civil war nurses The National Emergency Training Center in Emmitsburg was once St. Joseph’s College, which until 1973 was a Catholic girls’ school established in 1809. During the Civil War, this location was used as a hospital. Witnesses at the former college claim to have seen the ghosts of Civil War nurses, who were carrying buckets of amputated human limbs and heard the sounds of soldiers screaming in pain.