It Takes a Halloween Village

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By Paula Deen

I love family traditions. They’re what make holidays special—even Halloween. Each year I looked forward to going to the pumpkin patch to pick out my pumpkin. It was as serious as choosing our family’s Christmas tree. That pumpkin had to have an ideal surface for carving—not too flat and not too round. I always favored the short and squatty ones so I could carve out a crazy, wide-mouthed grin. But before I did, I’d make Daddy scoop out all the innards for me. I just couldn’t stand the thought of puttin’ my hands in that slimy mess. It didn’t help that Bubba kept calling it the pumpkin’s “brains.” But once Daddy had that pumpkin cleaned out, I insisted on doing the rest myself. Back in those days we didn’t have all those nifty little carving tools they sell now. We grabbed the longest, sharpest kitchen knife we could find and went at that poor pumpkin with gusto. Funny we didn’t cut our arms off.

Memories like these nourish us even when our Mommas and Daddies are long gone. I guess that’s why I’m so set on keepin’ up with Halloween traditions like making special treats for the kids and decorating my house with giant spiders, cobwebs and flying witches. I want my grandchildren to think of trick-or-treatin’ at “Ginny’s” house as something special. Sure, they probably think I’m a bit off my rocker for going to the lengths I do, but as long as we’re having fun, I don’t much care.

I’ve started some traditions of my own, too. Each year since my grandson Jack was born, I’ve set up a little Halloween village for him. It’s a set I bought a while back. I try to add to it each year. It’s a village with spooky houses playing music, streetlights that glow, pumpkins that light up and ghosts and witches that fly about. It has mesmerized Jack since day one. I set it up at my house outside the bedroom I have for him and he just stares and stares at it, his little imagination going crazy.

As y’all probably know, I’m touring around on a bus this month promotin’ my new Southern Cooking Bible. It’s so much fun meeting up with new people along the way, but I’ll be on the road until October 30th! Of course, I wouldn’t let that stop me from setting up Jack’s village, so Brandon and I went and took everything over and set him up the village in Brooke and Jamie’s dinning room. And Jack was in hog heaven. We couldn’t get it arranged quick enough for him to rearrange it.

And this year is even more special because his little brother Matthew can enjoy it too. Matthew’s Momma held him up to get a good look at it and his eyes got real big. He wanted to get his hands on those ghosts so bad, but I have a feeling Big Brother Jack is going to keep a pretty close eye on his village.

I suppose I’m sharing this with y’all because I want you to remember what it’s like to see Halloween through the eyes of a child. The little things like decorating, putting together goody bags for the neighbor kids, and carving pumpkins can mean so much. So much that they become tomorrow’s fondest memories.

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Leave a Comment

Reader Comments:

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Dear Paula, My mom and I make homemade pumpkin pies every year for the holidays, I love that time with my mom. Our pies are always a big hit with family and friends. But the last few years when our pies are cooling down they crack in the center. The pie taste great still, but we get really disappointed with the way they end up looking. Can you or anyone please tell me how we might be able to prevent this from happening? Thanks so much!!!!! Lots of Love, Monique

By Monique Montoya on November 19, 2011

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Hi Paula, my 15 year old DJ loves you...she loves to watch your show especially when you're cooking desserts. She loves to cook desserts. Cooking is not my favorite thing to do, I tried so hard to learn but food just don't come out right. But I am so blessed that my daughter is cooking for me and my husband most of the time. =) I work at CBN and I was so disappointed that I missed you. My daughter would have been more disappointed if I told her you were here cooking with Gordon. Anyway, just to let you know we watch your show and we love your contagious giggle and laugh.

By Erma on November 18, 2011

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DEAR PAULA, YOUR ARE SO RIGHT ABOUT KEEPING TRADITIONS. I HAVE 5 GREAT GRAND BIG BOYS AND GIRLS. CAN NOT SAY BABY'S ANYMORE CAUSE I HAVE 3 THAT ARE 3 YEARS OLD AND ONE 5 YEAR OLD AND ONE 7 YEAR OLD. I LOVE ALL OF THEM. SURE WISH YOU WOULD POST SOME MORE PICTURES OF THAT CUTIE PIE MATTHEW AND THAT BIG BOY JACK. SURE DO LOVE ALL YA'LL BEST DISHES FROM MY KITCHEN TO YOURS.

By Wanda on November 14, 2011

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Hey ya'll as paula would say and i wish everyone all the best , my comment is that i look ay you all as family and want to interact. How do i get to do thtat. Could you please help me in figureing out how to e mail or blog to my favorite chef like you and ask you questions. I love all of your shows and im so excited to hear from you and maybe inspire as well. Love, Andiea ( from new Orleans)

By Andiea Pearson on November 10, 2011

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Hi paula I am from iran and love cooking so much ,love you and your smile .I am coming to savannah next week .I wish to meet you in person (Can I have dream can I?) . in our last book club meeting we use your mac and cheese recipe ,it was so delicious.thanks

By maryam on November 06, 2011

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I am wanting the recipe for the Blueberry dessert you made a few weeks ago on your shop, It was a simple recipe with a yellow cake mix on the top. Thanks

By Judy Greer on November 05, 2011

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Paula, I just wanted to tell you you are a Delight to watch!!!! And those dang Recipes are Delicious!!!! It just blows my skirt so easy some of these recipes are.. Thank you for your Southern Hospitality!!!!!

By Tammy on November 03, 2011

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Paula, Do you are some of your staff remember a recipe that was going around in the 70's 80's that called for the cocktail wieners, mustard and apple jelly. Like the one out now with the chile sauce, grape jelly and the wieners. I have lost my copy. Thanks, Harriet Hope to meet you one day.

By Harriet Vining on November 02, 2011

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Hi Paula, I love the fact that you make all the holidays so special for your family. Unfortunately, here in Malta, Halloween is just starting to catch on, so it is unheard of to go out trick or treating wearing a costume, but maybe it will get better in the coming years. I do, however let my kids dress up at home and we spend a day in the kitchen making Halloween themed goodies. Keep up the good work Paula as we all love watching your show xxxxxxxxxxxx

By Christina Spiteri on November 01, 2011

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Paula, We love you in Kentucky! My five year old neice loves you so much better than cartoons!I know you are a wonderful Ginny.

By Windy Hinton on October 31, 2011

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LOVE YOU MUCH,

By ANITA on October 31, 2011

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Hi Paula Happy Halloween to you and your whole family and little Jack too..smile I just wish you were close to where I live now, me and my whole family just loves ya bunches..... We watch your shows all of them everyday.. sometimes over and over lol Love ya'll be safe and take care..

By melissa on October 31, 2011

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Hey Paula! guess who im going to be for halloween! im going to be you!! my teachers love you to! to check out my costume i would love you to e-mail me saying lets see that costume. im also going to be posting my out fit on you tube! dg1234567100 is my name on you tube. love you hope you can see my costume!!!!! love, dawson xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

By dawson on October 28, 2011

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Paula: y wife loves you and so last nght when you were on TV with Doctor Oz, she, naturally, wanted to watch, so we did. I was touched when you began discussing your issues with smoking and told my wife I needed to write you a letter and tell you my solution, which she encouraged me to do. I will be 74 on November 3, 2011, and was brought up during a time when I thought smoking was a natural evolution to manhood. My brother and I began experimenting with cigarettes when we were 14 or 15 and by the time I mustered out of the Marine Corps at 21, I was a a smoker and a man -- my brother, too. Our father & mother smoked and when dad died of emphasema when I was 36, my brother and I decided it was time to quit. So began a tortuous episode in my life that failed at every turn. My brother and I tried "cold turkey," hypnosis, accupuncture and even joined the Schick Institute where they hook you up to electrical wires and when you take a "drag" on a cigarette, they shock you with electricity -- still no success. This went on for 20 years and finally one night when I was out on the patio smoking my last cigarette of the day befoer I went to bed -- I was beginning to lose my voice and had developed dry heaves when I smoked __ I turned to God and said, "Lord, if I don't quit smoking, I'm going to die and I can't quit. If I'm ever going to do this you're going to have to help me. I'll make a deal with you, I'll not smoke until I have to." Then I wwent in and went to bed. The next morning I got up and remembered my promise to God, so I didn't light up. But, funny thing was, I didn't need to. Every smoker knows that there is a period of time, around 15 minutes, after you put out a cigarette, that you begin to want another one and the longfer you delay that next cigarette, the more you want one until it is the only thing you are thinking about. God removed that "urgency" from me and it has been over 12 years since I last smiked a cigarette. I told my two sister about this adn tehy asked God to do the same thing for them, which He did. I told my brother about it and he didn't do anything and the next year we buried him with complications from lung cancer. Paula, it was the easiest thing I have ever done and I urge you to try it, too. God will heal you. BTW, I love fried chicken and my wife is going to try your recipe. God Bless you adn your family adn I will pray for you.

By Art Richardson on October 27, 2011

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I really liked the idea of the Halloween Village! I have several Halloween battery-operated figures from Hallmark that I've collected over the years. I put them along with several stuffed pumpkins (one really cute one from a gift shop in Smithfield) up the stairway in the main hall. My grandchildren can't resist pushing the buttons to make them "sing" as they go past the stairs! Next year I'll have to use your village idea. They'll LOVE it. Thanks, Paula!

By Barbara Weaver on October 26, 2011

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Paula: What a nice story. Thank you for sharing. You know, your Grandson looks just like Donny Osmond when he was that age. Look up a picture on the internet. Long Live Butter (and Paula) Lisa

By Lisa on October 26, 2011

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Would like to know where you found and or purchase you village? Sounds like something I would like to start as a tradition in my family. We have one for Christmas, I think it would be fun to have one for Halloween.

By Lydia Pico on October 26, 2011

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Paula, You are a wonderful Mama and Grandma! Not to mention Mother-in-law! Keep up the good work!

By Donna Proffitt on October 26, 2011

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Great Halloween blog! I also wanted to tell you how gracious you (Paula), Micheal and your staff were Friday night in Tyler, Texas. Your security gentleman was helpful and accommodating! The schedule said 6-8, but you stayed until everyone in line had a chance to walk by your table and meet you. Had to be exhausting for all of you! I found this remarkable because every scrap of Paula Deen merchandise sold out long before, and you stayed to let people meet you and take photos even though they we were not able to and get the new "Bible" signed - every cookbook and magazine in the county had been sold. Appreciate your graciousness and kindness!

By Kathlene Williams on October 26, 2011

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This is my favorite time of year! It seems that there's more to do in the way of family tradition building, what with Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. My daughters and I just made toffee when my youngest and I took a road trip to Alabama a couple of weeks ago. Toffee is a holiday tradition for us and the girls wanted to know how to make it so they can share with their family and friends. Although we live hundreds of miles apart we can share in our traditions together as I pass down the recipes my children grew up on, and my mom passed to us. Someday I hope my grandchildren are close enough to us to be able to come to grandma's for pumpkin carving and so on. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us Paula, it seems we have similar wishes and dreams for family. grin

By Sheryl on October 26, 2011

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Paula Deen
Paula Deen
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Paula, I love watching you and your family. I miss seeing your show, I watched you everyday. My son lives in Charleston S.C. He took me to the Lady & Sons to eat. Oh my goodness! People are always telling me that I look just like the cooking lady Paula Deen. I always tell them that you are my hero. May God Bless You Mary Ann
Mary Ann Tharp in A Summer of Burgers on August 15, 2014 at 10:48 pm

Add a few spoonfuls of parmesan cheese to the flour and cornmeal breading and it kicks the tomatoes up another notch. Bev
in Crispy Fried Green Tomatoes on August 15, 2014 at 10:33 am

I just bought Paula's Peach Salad Dressing and wondered if anyone has a good recipe that they use it in?
Melissa in Taste Testing 101 on August 13, 2014 at 8:36 am

Congrats Bobby. Loved the family picture miss you Paula on TV will be watching online. Jack is getting big. Looks like his mom but Matt aka moose has your face. Your eyes cheeks hair even falls to his face like yours except to the left. Good luck on your next venture. You give us other 60+ yr women strength to move on. Keep up the good work.
Carol Bryant in Love at Last on August 11, 2014 at 6:12 pm