October 2008

Only 4 days left til Halloween!  As you scour the aisles of party stores and search Google for inspiration for the perfect costume, I thought it would be nice to share a few interesting trivia facts about the holiday.  So take note of these interesting tidbits and make sure to share them at your Halloween gatherings this year.


  • The first Halloween celebration in America took place in Anoka, Minnesota in 1921.
  • Halloween candy sales average about $2 billion annually in the United States. It is the largest candy-purchasing holiday, bigger than Christmas, Easter and Valentine’s Day!
  • The first Halloween card was made in the early 1920’s. These days, over 28 million Halloween cards are sent each year. U.S. consumers spend about $50 million on Halloween greetings.
  • Over $1.5 billion is spent on costumes each year.
  • About 99% of pumpkins that are marketed domestically are turned into jack-o-lanterns.
  • More than 35 million pounds of candy corn will be produced this year.
  • Of all canned fruits and vegetables, pumpkin is the best source of vitamin A. Just a half-cup of the orange stuff has more than three times the recommended daily requirement.
  • The very first jack-o’-lantern was made from a turnip.
  • In 2007, the major pumpkin-producing states produced a total of 1.1 billion pounds of the orange gourd in 2007, valued at $117 million. Illinois led the pack, producing 542 million pounds. California, New York, and Ohio each produced at least 100 million pounds.
  • Tootsie Rolls were the first wrapped penny candy in America.

Mark and I are going as characters from a famous movie this year.  What are you dressing as for Halloween?



This week, I wanted to start off with a big congrats to newlyweds Jo and Darrell on the birth of their daughter, Emma Grace!  She was born on Saturday, October 18 after a very long labor (you’re a tough one, Jo!).  We are very excited about Emma’s birth and can’t wait to see the new little one.

Starting to plan your Halloween party but don’t know how to start?  Don’t forget to check out my earlier blog post with some fantastic party planning tips.

And now, without much further ado, let’s check out the culture scene:

CULTURALLY SPEAKING, for October 21, 2008:

  • Take a break from the craziness during the work week at Sunday brunch at the Beehive in Boston’s South End.  The mimosas are a little pricey at $10, but almost all of the delicious, filling brunch food is under $13 and there’s great jazz to keep you entertained.  (I was just there to enjoy their smoked salmon egg yumminess this weekend with Mark, Colleen, Todd, Melyssa & Jeff.)
  • Want to see Boston back in 1903 but can’t afford a time machine?  Check out this cool video here.
  • Ooh la la – Architect Zaha Hadid’s traveling Chanel Pavilion made its U.S. debut Monday in New York’s Central Park. The structure is designed to display art that was inspired by Chanel’s 2.55 handbag. (courtesy of Culture Monster)
  • Looking for a women’s mag that’s maybe not so glossy?  Check out Bitch Magazine, a cool, slightly feminist reaction to the media.  It puts a new spin on what we see and read everyday while being funny & empowering.  And it’s a zine, not a standard magazine, so picking up a copy is a great way to help support the strong writers out there who can’t always make it to the mainstream.
  • Another nod to the indie scene: the CMJ music fest kicks off tonight in NYC.  Pay bottom dollar for hip, upcoming top rate bands.  Who knows – you could catch a great live act like Black Eyed Peas before they hit it big (it happened to me in ’97!).
  • New book about Fred Astaire!  The NY Times review is not too favorable, but the second to last line about the amazing dancer is a good reason why picking up a classic Astaire flick like Top Hat will bring a smile to anyone’s face, especially in these times: “But in [Astaire’s] total disregard of the hardship and squalor of the ’30s, he let it be known that art need have nothing to do with life. That’s where “Citizen Kane” betrays itself. It is heavy-handedly about “America.” “Top Hat” and the others are strolls through Arcadia. “

What are your plans for Halloween?

I am still super exhausted from a long (but fun!) weekend at home on Long Island/New York City, so this week’s intro is short.

There it was! 🙂

CULTURALLY SPEAKING, for October 14, 2008:

  • Tired of the sad little apples in Stop & Shop?  Pick your own fresh Mac’s and Granny Smith’s by finding a nearby farm in MA from this extensive yet easy to read list
  • There’s hope yet!  Massive grant issued in LA to save non-profit theatre and dance productions
  • Check out this super cool video and watch how women in art change over time (thanks, Abby!)
  • News to make your 90s alternative rock self all shiny happy (people) – Butch Vig is confirmed to be working on Green Day’s new album
  • We all need a good laugh, so enjoy the newly released Mitch Hedberg CD (the last recorded material before his too-soon passing)
  • Fan of Mad Men?  See the real-life inspiration from the days when Santa Claus pushed smokes at this exhibit in NYC

Don’t forget to register to vote!  Tomorrow is the last day for MA residents if you haven’t registered yet…get to it!

I know, I’m late on this week’s post. That’s because I just got back from a great show here. I was enjoying the sweet, sultry sounds of Rachel Platten, Lucy Woodward and Toby Lightman. As a long-time fan of Toby, since her “Devils and Angels” single was everywhere, and a long-time admirer of Lucy Woodward’s “Dumb Girls” hit 5 years ago (and a new fan of Rachel’s after tonight), it was a great chance to see these three stunning NY-based singers in one space (in what I jokingly dubbed the “Blonde Ambition in Boots” tour).

So this week’s Culturally Speaking lesson is only one point:

Go. See. A. Concert.

Tonight’s show reminded me all the fun things I miss about catching a live show. Plus, it felt great to support a local, amazing space like Cafe 939, which is all Berklee-student-run. (Okay, so Abby & I did feel like the oldest people there, but it was a nostalgic throwback to the smaller venue days in Northampton and Amherst in college.)

Tonight’s show was a hint towards the new direction of the music industry. Two of the artists have left their major labels to go independent and the other one is on the rise due to a strong local following on the East Coast. And the venue, showcasing amazing acoustics in a really really intimate space and run by hip indie music kids, was a fresh relief from the overpowering arenas that change their name faster than the Stock Market goes up and down these days. As we turn our attention to downsizing everything else in our lives, I think we will return to more local artists and intimate music spaces to fulfill our musical needs.

So support an independent artist or local venue, get some culture into your lives and check out a show, whether or not you know who the musician is. You never know – you may end up falling in love with them. Trust me, your ears will thank you.

P.S. Check out Pollstar.com to see who’s playing in your town (great site, easy to navigate).

Roy Lichtenstein, my favorite artist

Last Tuesday I kicked off the first installment of “Culturally Speaking,” a weekly post highlighting some cultural joys to help us look past the doom & gloom of the news headlines to the richer, more cultured stories and events that are out there.  To keep in theme with the tough economy, I’ll try to keep an eye out for any arts events that are on the cheaper side. 

If you have any comments, additions, suggestions, etc., please feel free to share them here!

CULTURALLY SPEAKING, for September 30, 2008:

Want more arts updates more than once a week?  Check out the newly launched blog “Culture Monster” from the LA Times!

Have a good week! 🙂