E.T. … D.O.A.

Ed Naha had a funny column that was featured irregularly in Sci-Fi magazines like Heavy Metal in the 80’s, here he writes “… novelizations I’d like to see in my Christmas stocking this year.

E.T. … D.O.A.

By Mickey Spillane

ET

He was short and lean and mean and green … and stuck in a clothes closet. He pressed his body again the wall. If felt good to the touch. He glanced around him. He was surrounded by dolls. Not the kind of dolls he was used to hanging around, either. These ones were stuffed with sawdust and probably wouldn’t survive a quick round of Hide the Tentacle without losing an arm or a leg, or a Made in Taiwan tag.

He strained his head to listen for the Earth woman called “Mommy” outside. He would have strained his ears but his kind didn’t have them. His kind never did. Sensing that big Mommy was gone, he flat-footed it out of the closet and across the room.

That’s when he spotted them.

They were round and shiny and chocolate.

Without thinking, he grabbed one. It felt good to his touch. Besides that, it melted in his mouth and not in his tendril.

The room began to spin around him. The shock of recognition hit him hard. He had wandered into a set left over from Poltergeist.

Christmas Pudding Black Oaks Style

The story goes that Great Grandmother Cole had secret recipes for melt-in-your-mouth puddings and cakes. Fortunately for us, her grandson, Albert Cole, found the book and over 60 years ago created a spectacular Christmas pudding based on his grandmother’s recipe.

Cole’s Gluten Free Christmas Pudding has the key flavours of Sultanas, Raisins, Currents, Brown sugar, Molasses and Candied Citrus Peel, Apples and Spices but it’s free from alcohol, nuts and gluten and because Cole’s suet is made with Palm Oil it’s perfect for Vegetarians.

I steamed the 112 gram pudding, but added the alcohol back spooning over a mixed topping of Double Devon Cream and Criollo Chocolate Salted Caramel Liqueur.  Um, yes, yummy.

117 g Single Cole's Gluten Free Christmas Pudding

112 g Single Cole’s Gluten Free Christmas Pudding

Half Portion Cole's Gluten Free Christmas Pudding

Half Portion Cole’s Gluten Free Christmas Pudding

While it’s not unlike me to wear something stretchy for Christmas dinner, I always think dessert is overkill.  I offer two sizes to serve to your guests with the requisite Chocolates, Shortbread, grapes and cheese with a lovely Tawny Port that I know you will also have lurking about.

Pudding Servings – The individual puddings can be steamed in a large pot all at once and inverted one pudding per plate.  Alternatively, break the pudding apart and split the contents into two small juice glasses layered with the topping much like a Trifle.

Topping Servings – The same amount of topping can go on the individual or the layered style pudding, but it’s really up to you.  I used approximately two Tablespoons of Double Devon Cream whisked into a generous Tablespoon of liqueur.   One bottle of cream 170 grams serves serves four to five portions of this recipe regardless of the pudding serving.

I going to update this recipe when one of my vegan friends steps up to recommend an ready made alternative to the Devon Cream, but so far I think making your own is the best.  There are many syrups that can be substituted for the liqueur like Starbucks® Caramel Syrup which is equally at home in coffee and in cream.

Meantime I am so happy to have found this Cole’s product at my local Metro in Mississauga.  I’m a terrible baker and hate to miss this traditional British dish the one time I crave it … Christmas!

The Other Diagon Alley

One of my best memories is after dinner at Grammie and Grampa’s house in Calgary.   There’s was a small house with a huge garden and behind that a triangulated alley with, at it’s heart, a small park.  After dinner, Grammie would do the dishes and I, many times with my three sisters, would lay in front of the television watching the Wonderful World of Disney.  Grampa on the easy chair behind us gently snoring with his false teeth teetering at the edge of his mouth.  This childhood memory evokes a sense of peace, calm and safety.

Macfies

Disney was my introduction to fantasy which later grew into a love of it, as well as historical and sci-fi literature. Among my favourite fantasy characters and in my opinion, the most famous of wizards, Merlin appears in dozens of novels including those penned by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Stephen R. Lawhead and T.H. White.

Other wizard characters Harry Dresden, Allanon, Dr Strange [Marvel], Elminster Aumar, The Crimson King [Stephen King], Gandalf and Harry Potter all have had a place in my library. Since we are talking about Disney, I must give honourable mention to Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice [Fantasia 1940], but I’d really rather mention his boss, the little known, but great wizard, Yen Sid.

Without prejudice to the products from Universal Studios or the fictional Diagon Alley in London, England, both which I would aspire to visit, the alley behind my grandparent’s house was as magical as any of literature or film fame.  From there I swung until I was dizzy, climbed trees, watched Canada Day fireworks, had crab apple fights, raided gardens with kids I met on the block and spent those rare sultry Calgary nights catching fireflies ~ all without the supervision of adults. This memory evokes feelings of independence, trust, strength and wonder.

You can look in your own back yard for a purveyor of fine gifts for wizards young and old ~ it’s called MacFie’s.

I first met Danny McAfee and his wife is Shayna at the Guelph Faery Festival.   Their small business started with walking sticks and wizard staffs.  Shortly thereafter adding wands, potions and apothecary ingredients.  Over the years they introduced owls, runes and even vampire hunting paraphernalia and all of these heirloom quality items are handmade right here in Ontario, Canada.

Macfies2My own Wizardry Kit from Macfies includes a beautiful Red Oak wand, wand bag, wand property card, plush owl, 2 owl accessories (brown owl hat & owl scroll) and one apothecary set (Phoenix Tears, Basilisk Teeth, Griffin Hair and apothecary stand).   Boxed and ready for wrapping, this heirloom can be found at Macfie’s for around $50.00

Shop on-line or Macfies will be at the Western Fair District, Progess Building, London, Ontario Dec 4-7.

#shoplocal

The Giving Tree – a Community Christmas Tradition

I don’t know what happened to the originally filed post, but it is gone in favour of my stock making video.  I have re-written and re-posted this article.

Our mother survived skin cancer, a brain aneurysm and a mini stroke only to die in her sleep in her 67th year.  With those regular reminders of our human fragility, my memories of our mother are very strong.

GivingTreePicThe year before she died, I was out West visiting and we were out for a long walk.  This is something all the women in my family share, a love of long walks, preferably with dogs winding between our feet.  Mom had taken me down to Sandy Beach, a rare place in Calgary with trees and water.  In this place, as children and teens, our Mom and Auntie Joan had floated down the river on inner tubes, skipped school to suntan and smoke, had bbq’s and likely kissed boys.

Not very far down the path, the Christmas snow well trodden by others, we came upon a small coniferous tree covered in all kinds of decorations.   I was delighted.  My mother explained it as the Giving Tree, because it gives people the same feeling it gave me.  Mom said someone starts by placing one decoration secretly and soon others follow.

When we moved to our new house, I chose a tree in one of our local urban forests to start this tradition.  It took weeks for people to cotton on, but now each year the Giving Tree emerges over the first two weeks of December.

How-To start your own tree.

Find a path that is well walked within your own Community.

Choose a Tree that ideally is coniferous, but mostly one that is the perfect size for the small and the tall to reach the branches.

When the snow flies or by December 1st, start with two or three homemade or store bought decorations.  Keep in mind they may be pilfered or broken, so don’t have any attachment to them.

Try not to let anyone see you decorating.

Even if you are not joined, I guarantee it will give an unexpected delight.  To encourage people to join, add some more each day and leak the story to other parents or neighbours.

Take the decorations down after January 7th and put them in a basket, so people can take them back if they wish.  If not keep them till next year, or gift some to others who want to start their own Giving Tree, or donate them.

*This article, nor it’s content, has any association with the book, The Giving Tree.

Befana from Goddess to Santa Claus

Kathy Kenzora of Karma is a great local entrepreneur and now a friend.  Opening in 2011, Karma is small independent Furniture and House Decor Consignment Shop in the Village of Clarkson, Mississauga.  You can imagine all the interesting items that pass through shops like this and it’s such a pleasure for me to tease out the story of as many items as I can.

Last week in a box of porcelain ornaments from “Around the World”, I spotted this.  As you know my education is in Anthropology and I own a web based business called FeeFiFoFun Costume Concierge.  Halloween is a Cultural tradition that fascinates me and I wondered immediately how a witch on a broom stick ends up as a Christmas ornament.

BefanaOrnament

I found the tale of Befana of Italy, an old woman wearing black, riding a broomstick with a sack over her shoulder.  She’s covered in soot because it’s said she enters people’s houses through the chimney.  Well she looks like freaky morph of a Halloween witch and a Christmas Santa Claus, but that’s too simple.

Like many legends, Befana’s origins have become foggy over the centuries changing to meet the needs of the current society.  Reports of Befana can be found in the Pagan Roman Strina to Eve of the birth of Christ, but currently Italian children can put their socks out to be filled with candies by her for Epiphany on January 5th.

Source: veniceredhouse.com

Source: veniceredhouse.com

Italy even has the Befana Regatta where adults dress and compete in a boating contest, but Italian kids have got it best  because they get goodies from both Father Christmas and Befana!

For more detail on this interesting character, here is a good link.

Kid’s Crafts – The Christmas Elf

If only to hide the evidence, I’m always looking for something to with the many, many corks left over from my favourite vice of wine tasting.  Here an easy Cultural tradition to do with kids.  They will look adorable on the Christmas table or hung on the Christmas tree.  Don’t forget to put the year and the child’s name on the bottom!

Ho Ho Ho

Ho Ho Ho

Tomte, Nisse or Tomtenisse [Sweden], Nisse [Norway and Denmark] and Tonttu [Finland] is generally considered the Swedish and Norwegian version of Santa Claus. He’s about three feet tall with a red cap and like the of Brownies of Irish lore, is a mischievous domestic sprite that can be extremely helpful or, if you don’t leave him butter or other treats, can be very naughty. So if your cow’s milk is soured or you can’t find your best woolen socks, you’ve no one to blame but yourself.

You and your children may have seen the new animated mini series, Over the Garden Wall, whose character Wirt look suspiciously like our sprite sans beard.  Thanks to Sam for introducing me to this charming series which I am going to share this Christmas with my granddaughter, especially the song Potatoes and Molasses.

I used a glue gun, but white glue is great too.

I used a glue gun, but white glue is great too.

What you need:

Scissors

Glue

Corks

Red Felt

Cotton Balls

Sharpie

Bells [Michaels Arts & Crafts, PartyCity and Dollarama in the Wedding Section]

How – To:

Cut 3″ X 3″ squares of Red Felt.

Run a line of glue in a reverse L.

Starting on the Left Roll a the Small part of the Cork to the Right till the Seam meets.

Join the Seam and Press till Dry.

Draw in the Eyes with the Sharpie.

Add Glue to the space beneath the Eyes and Pull off Enough Cotton to make the Beard. Press on.

Clip a tiny Triangle for the Nose and Glue on.

Crimp the top of the Felt Hat and Tie on the Bells.

Add a string for a wonderful Christmas ornament.

Add a string for a wonderful Christmas ornament.

How to Fall in Love with Morocco from your Couch

Bliss Bracelets

Bliss Bracelets

It would give me no greater pleasure than to visit Morocco.  The light of North Africa, the colours of spice, the intersections of costume and traditions of Berber, Jewish and Muslim communities.  I don’t have immediate plans to go, but I have found a way to enjoy a bit of Morocco [and Peru] from Canada and that is through Jessica Torres of Welland, Ontario.

Like me Jessica fell in love with One Earth and decided to become a sales consultant with them.  One Earth products meet my own criteria for company ethics and fair trade, sustainable income for locals, emphasis on local and hand made products, and well, the products are seriously cool.

From Jessica, I’ve already bought the small tea pot and a hand-tooled leather bag pack made in Morocco, but I’ve got my eye on the Lala Satchel Purse for me and the Peruvian Bliss stacking bracelets which would make exquisite stocking stuffers for my sisters and nieces.

Lala Satchel

Lala Satchel

If you are an Anthropologie junkie like me, you are going to loVe Jessica Torres and One Earth.  Shopping local in an entire new way.

Jessica lives in Welland, Ontario and her Twitter handle is @one1earthbyjess

When Does Christmas begin for You?

Growing up in Calgary we must have had our tree up at least two weeks before Christmas.  Actually I don’t remember the timing.  It never seemed to be an issue.

Grammie Elf

Grammie Elf

The important parts were walking a family member’s Priddis ranch property to find the perfect tree.  Placing aluminum, not plastic, icicles along the branches an agonizing one strand at a time.  Wearing brand new Nanny pjammies and opening stockings in bed with my three sisters around 4:00 a.m. each Christmas morning.  Dinner with our extended family which included shredded carrots in orange jello and the mashed turnip that everyone put on their plate, but few ate.  Wondering if I would ever be big enough to sit at the adults table and not understanding that I would then be expected to wash the dishes instead of watching the Wonderful World of Disney on the floor at Grampa’s feet.

I don’t know when starting Christmas too early became a problem.  I know my husband refuses to get the tree or put up lights until days before the Eve, while I sneakily decorate the house in stages as soon as it gets really chilly.  I do, however, loathe businesses who are built around seasons.  It just puts too much pressure on everyone.

Some of my costume products are in demand before Halloween as companies and communities prepare for November events like the Santa Parade and staff parties, but this is their choice and I am responding to it.   I wish more business owners would fight the urge to unnaturally force this already stressful time of year onto themselves, staff and consumers.  Do you agree and …

Falling Back in Love with Halloween

Halloween, and the Fall in general, was always my favourite time of year.  Cosy layers of my Dad’s old cashmere and my mom’s Cowichan sweaters.  Brilliant colours of red and yellow maple leaves set against a crisp blue sky.  Freshly picked Macintosh apples with gooey Kraft caramels.  The smell of wood burning fireplaces and maple and rosemary in buttered yams.  Mmmmm.  What’s not to love?

AJ-Thea&Adam

FeeFiFoFun.ca Sponsored Toronto Zombie Walk 2014 and I found a rare moment to pose with TZW Rock Stars Thea and Adam. [L-R] Thea Munster, Franken Me, Adam Paradox.

… and Halloween, which is rooted in ancient Gaelic tradition called Samhuin literally meaning the “end of summer”.  It is a time when the veil separating the worlds of the living and dead softens and the dead can cross over.  The only way to keep your milk from going sour or from getting a wart, it is said, is to disguise yourself like the dead or demons to avoid their attention.

I love disguise and Halloween so much that I opened a costume business, FeeFiFoFun, in 2010.  Most people I meet believe that costumes are just for Halloween.  They are surprised when they find their way back to me desperately needing a costume piece for a birthday gift, a business event, but mostly for their children’s school performances.

Every day for the past four years I have lived and breathed the business of costume play.  It starts with the Halloween & Party Show every January.  There I walk miles of corridors displaying bright balloons and party table wear, gory Halloween decor and tall smiling half naked girls who are modeling the costume trends their manufacturers believe will be profitable for me.  Stock arrives weekly throughout August and September allowing me time to organize for the frantic last two weeks in October when every child changes their mind and all the Halloween business happens.

The rest of the year does pale in comparison to my Halloween sales, but I’m amazed still at the abrupt transitions into Christmas, New Years, the School Year and Fan Conventions.  Like a switch on and off.

I wake up at 3:30 a.m. every day with my mind full of ideas and my heart racing with worry and excitement.  This is normal I understand from my Mom Biz Coaches Lara and Sheila.  Normal for entrepreneurs whose  perfectionism and incredible passion clashes with our sense of self preservation.  In my case, my sleepless night’s are also the drive to find meaning in my life.

My father, mother and little sister Jo died all died around my birthday in September 1994, 2004 and 2007 respectively.  Cancer sucks.  I’ve pretty much let this ruin the Fall for me.  It came into sharp contrast when last Halloween a neighbour came to the door with his two children after the pumpkin light was put out.  I thought, how rude, but then he remarked, “We thought, you being in the costume business, that your place would be the one all dressed up and out til the wee hours.”

He was right.  I’d spent so much time on others costumes and decor that I had little energy left for myself.  I had ruined Halloween.   I love my work, but I was exhausted.  Then came my granddaughter and at four she is now able to share all of her innocence and wonder with me about dress up and Halloween.

I’m not there yet.  I’m still struggling, but the mindfulness of finding meaning in every day life and watching my granddaughter is helping me slowly get back to loving the Fall and Halloween.

Creative Collaboration in Small Business

My teeth were cut in the 80’s as an ad executive in traditional advertising and public relations and opening a costume concierge business in 2010, I embraced social media.    I’ve noted,  working with other new entrepreneurs, especially women, that cash poor and product heavy businesses choose collaboration or cross promotion to market themselves.

However, these collaborations fail or are horribly unsatisfying for the Entrepreneur and this is why.

Entrepreneurs are creative, passionate and energetic … and hopeful.  You feel if you offer a quality product for free, including your time, that the collaborating company will give you something equal in kind.  Right?  Wrong.  How could you not help but be disappointed with yourself or the result?

Here are some tips and case studies about entrepreneurial collaboration that work for different reasons.

Tip 1 – The Six W’s.  Whose going to be there that is important to me?  When am I expected to be at this event?  What do I have to provide for this event?  Where in the event am I situated?  Why am I going to this event?  HoW the hell do I get the most out of this collaboration?

Case Study 1 – Hockey School Fundraiser  – The question Where found me in a private venue for an adult-only event with lots of food, drink and dim lighting.   The challenge was how to feature my product amongst hundreds of others.  With my mannequin dressed in as Elsa [the hottest 2014 costume] beside a rotating photo frame of my product, the event coordinator said it was a total hit, attracting attention to my table while improving the overall quality of her event.

Tip 2 – Value can be measured in many ways. Contradicting myself, sometimes a charitable event meets your company’s mission statement, or free product for a photo shoot gives you lifestyle shots of your product.

Case Study 2 – Photography Collaboration – I invited my co-op students to a participate in a free photo shoot.   The goal for the photographer and myself was to break creative boredom by working in a new genre called Cosplay.  I agreed to let the students pose in their own costumes as long as they were holding/wearing at least one of my products and if I could use the photographs in social media.   I learned a great deal about Cosplay and how I might make money from these young adults and was cool by association.

EmmaLolita

Photo Shoot with Welcome Aboard Photography

Tip 3 – Ask for what you want out of the deal.  They will either say yes or no.

Case Study 3 – Library Workshop Collaboration –  I’d hoped this event would give me data on how to proceed with the development of additional teaching units for middle schools and private playgrounds.   I asked if the Mississauga Public Library would use their substantial electronic and paper distribution systems to publicize the events.  They said yes, and I thought I was a shoe-in.    After six weeks of marketing, we had only six teens attend the workshop, a total bust.  I’m still not sure why the marketing failed, but the positive outcome was testing the ideas without having to carry the entire cost. #BigGuysCanAlsobeNiceGuys

Emma-Library Sign

Costume Workshop at Local Library

Tip 4 – Don’t just value your products.  Put a value your time.

Case Study 4 – Sponsorship of The Toronto Zombie Walk & Halloween Parade.  Not exactly a “collaborative” event since I am paying for vendor space and banner placement, but with this group IF you are creative the opportunity over and above the sponsorship is substantial.  What did I get?  Sponsorship means that my advertising banner, on TZW web site, is linked to my web store for a full year.   TZW has other events all year long that I can springboard from.  TZW also pimps me in other ways.

I zombify Blindsighted Host Kelly Macdonald for TZW 2014

I zombify Blindsighted Host Kelly Macdonald for TZW 2014

For example, they introduced me to AMI whose one hour filming on site with Blindsighted Host Kelly Macdonald, airs in January 2015, not in October when I am over saturated with “opportunities”.  Finally, the buttons I give away annually at TZW have my website address.  Because the TZW event, like Cosplay, is a highly photographed event,  people with our buttons will show up in photographs until digital kingdom is done.   The bang for my buck of time is amazing value. #ExploitinaNiceway

Cole Arthur, and our 2011 button complete with web address, appears ad infinitum, thanks to photographer Henry Chan

Cole Arthur, and our 2011 button complete with web address, appears ad infinitum, thanks to photographer Henry Chan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Case Study 5 – Through Twitter I met Murder Mystery Maven, Leigh Clements.   Having made custom flapper head bands for many of her guests at a Toronto event she hosted, I impressed photographer Wales Wong.  With Wales and her team, on a rainy day in Toronto, I helped style a photo shoot published in Dark Beauty Magazine.  My credit styling this event, again, appears on the internet in multiple places giving weight to my store’s web metrics in ways I will never understand and making me feel very cool, just by association. #FollowtheThread

IMG_5621DangerousAffairs IMG_5770

Case Study 6 – St Joseph’s Health Centre HallowSuperJohnsoneen fundraising campaign in Bloor West Village.  I created looks and styled five families as super heroes.   The ad campaign would appear on a web site, posters, banners, elevator doors.  I did it because my kids went there for every major crisis, it was a challenge and it was very cool. #CommunityService #Volunteer

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tip 5 – Some people or companies may just be dicks.  If they are really all that and it’s worth riding on their coat tails, just be grateful.  If they think they are all that, you either bought into it or were naive and in either case, you’ve got to just accept it and move on.

Case Study 5 – Shall Remain Nameless Collaboration.  I was invited to do something cool, a workshop on prosthetics and make-up and I spent months designing and over $1,000 in products, staff and hotel with a promise of reciprocal social media promotion, being in the paper program, blah blah blah.  I was so excited I said yes, pulled out all the stops, created an amazing event, fizzle, burn, nadda in return.  It was humiliating.  It was embarrassing and … my ego and enthusiasm is definitely to blame.

I’m sure I will make more mistakes in this entrepreneurial journey at FeeFiFoFun Costumes and in my blogging Off the Porch, Black Oaks and In Disguise, but if I enter with my eyes wide open I can enjoy the best and throw away the rest.