Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?

 

Although I grew up in Pennsylvania, the now legendary Fairyland of Gettysburg eludedFantasyland Brochure me.  The park opened in 1959 and operated through its closure in 1980. Being born in 1978 a 4 hour’s drive away, it just slipped right through my little toddler fingers. I only learned of its existence years later online. In all the pictures and promotional materials, I continued to see a towering figure; 23 feet tall and somewhat sinister. Mother Goose welcomed all guests with a big bowl of salad and a pained expression of discomfort. Her face looked more like a real mother’s than it did a fairy tale. She appears tired, irritated, and has somewhat masculine features. Her knobby cane emphasizes her agony further. Next to her, a curious goose, looking up at her (maybe interested in what is in the bowl) The more I dug, the more she started showing up. I found her scowl on brochures, souvenirs, and postcards.
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The statue’s face is strange and memorable. I recognized it immediately.

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I had seen this face before at Storybook Land in Egg Harbor.  I thought to myself “Huh-They actually made two of those!-Wonder what happened to the one that was in Gettysburg.”

The deeper I dug the more I found; and my initial assumption was wrong.

There were not two of these figures manufactured, there was just one, and she was made to be the focal point at the entrance of Fantasyland for Ken and Thelma Dick, who opened the park in 1959.

When it closed, most of the statues and figures were sold to other park owners. Many of them went to Indiana, but surely the largest, Mother Goose, presented a unique set of challenges. As it turns out, she made the  nearly 200 mile trip east from Gettysburg to the Jersey Shore, where she has continued to greet visitors at the entrance of a new park.

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Gettysburg lost a piece of its collective childhood when Fantasyland closed its castle doors, but thankfully, Mother Goose was not left to the bulldozers or the elements. She still greets the young visitors (and the young at heart). She is the first thing guests see when they walk through the gates of Story Book Land. She’s even got a spot for excited kids (like me) to pose with her…and her mysterious bowl of salad. The park has repainted her beautifully, even softening her face into a near Mona-Lisa smile. She’s blushing and has gotten her nails done. Her witchy-pointed hat has been shortened and flowers have been added. She seems happy to spend her old age here near the Atlantic Ocean.  Her goose friend is here too, still trying desperately to get her attention.

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Next time you are visiting Story Book Land take a  look at a piece of history from a park that didn’t make it. Fantasyland was less fortunate than Story Book Land which still operates today, but even through uncertain times, mothers always seem to find their way back to their children.

The Sprats, a real fairy tale couple we can aspire to on Valentine’s Day

 

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Love is in the air, but in fairy tales, there are not frequently couples we can aspire to.

When you think about fairy tales and romance, you might first think of innumerable princess stories. However, in them, you will find dark themes hiding beneath the surface. Many of these stories were cleaned up by Disney in order to make them more palatable to a 20th century audience, but these original stories are riddled with jealousy, attempted murder, poisoning, and abusive families. Perhaps the most blatant example of “what not to do” in a relationship is the tale of the imprisoned  and abused wife of Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater!

In these romance stories, physical beauty is revered, while those possessing inner strength are often locked away and forgotten to toil on backbreaking chores. If one theme holds constant, it is that in the end, only the most beautiful, and pure princesses find mates.

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Thinking about this, I found myself searching for a realistic couple I could respect in the fairy tale world. I wanted a pair that exhibited unconditional love for one another, and whose traits make them complete partners by virtue of their opposite strengths. I came to the unexpected realization that maybe this ideal couple is not the most obvious husband and wife. They weren’t beautiful, or wealthy. They weren’t refined. In fact, in all of my travels, I’ve only encountered one (somewhat terrifying) interpretation of them at the Magic Forest.  (Though while researching this post, I did locate a second example at Rock City’s Fairyland Caverns in Chatanooga-Which is going on the list of future visits!)

I digress, the couple in question is Jack Sprat and his wife, Joan. For you scholars, there are additional lyrics to the rhyme, (though most of us only know the first stanza pictured above). I’ve included the song in its entirety at the end of this post. There are several interpretations of this tale, with some believing it is a reference to King Charles I and Henrietta Maria. Others believe it is actually referencing Richard I.

Ignoring British history, let’s read this purely as a children’s rhyme. We get to know Jack and Joan only through one short verse, but it is clear that they work in tandem to accomplish their goals (as most successful marriages do!)  Jack and Joan make due with what they have, always ensuring that the other is cared for.  Throughout the rhyme they both have enough to eat and consistently demonstrate their love one another (just as they are).

In a comedic, but romantic gesture, after they are married, Joan is too fat for the carriage, so without judgement or hesitation, Jack wheels her home in a wheelbarrow. The plump wife, and skinny husband seem perfectly paired. When trouble befalls Joan upon falling out of the wheelbarrow, Jack is first concerned for her safety. Once settled into their roles, Joan brews beer and cooks dinner; while time and time again we see Jack portrayed as a doting husband who makes sure Joan’s clothes are mended, and her belly is full. We see him hunt ducks and buy her anything she needs. Despite the mundane life they seem to lead, we even see two embark on international travel together, while their little cat has adventures of his own.

You’ll find no beautiful princesses here, and no dashing princes. Just two simple people sharing a life together, and there’ something quite admirable about that.

For the full picture of the Jack and Joan Sprat’s life, I encourage you to read their entire story in these lesser known verses below. The thing I love about this is that even though we see both of them fail and make foolish mistakes, their love for one another stays constant. Despite the odds, the love and respect for one another never falters.

THE LIFE OF JACK SPRAT, HIS WIFE, AND HIS CAT.

This one ear’d Cat,
Belongs to Jack Sprat.

Jack Sprat could eat no fat
His wife could eat no lean,
And so between them both,
They lick’d the platter clean ;

Jack eat all the lean,
Joan eat all the fat,
The bone they pick’d it clean,
Then gave it to the cat

When Jack Sprat was young,
He dressed very smart,
He courted Joan Cole,
And he gained her heart ;

In his fine leather doublet,
And old greasy hat,
O what a smart fellow-
Was little Jack Sprat.

Joan Cole had a hole.
In her petticoat,
Jack Sprat, to get a patch
Gave her a groat ;
The groat bought a patch,
Which stopp’d Joan’s hole,

I thank you, Jack Sprat,
Says little Joan Cole.

Jack Sprat was the bridegroom,
Joan Cole was the bride,
Jack said, from the church
His Joan home should ride ;
But no coach could take her,
The lane was so narrow,
Said Jack, then I’ll take her
Home in a wheel-barrow.

Jack Sprat was wheeling
His wife by a ditch,
The barrow turn’d over,
And in she did pitch ;
Says Jack, she’ll be drown’d,
But Joan did reply,
I don’t think 1 shall,
For the ditch is quite dry.

Jack brought home his Joan,
And she sat on a chair,
When in came his cat,
That had got but one ear,
Says Joan, I’m come home puss,
Pray how do you do,
The cat wagg’d her tail,
And said nothing but mew.

Jack Sprat took his gun,
And went to the brook,
He shot at the drake,
But he kill’d a duck,
He brought it to Joan,
Who a fire did make,
To roast the fat duck,
While Jack went for the drake.

The drake was a swimming,
With his curley tail,
Jack Sprat came to shoot him,
But happen’d to fail ;
He let off his gun,
But missing his mark

The drake flew away,
Crying, quack, quack quack.

Jack Sprat, to live pretty,
Now bought him a pig,
It was not very little,
It was not very big,
It was not very lean,
It was not very fat,
It will serve for a grunter,
For little Jack Sprat.

Then Joan went to market,
To buy her some fowls,
She bought a jackdaw
And a couple of owls;
The owls they were white,
The jackdaw was black,
They’ll make a rare breed,
Says little Joan Sprat.

Jack Sprat bought a cow,
His Joan for to please,
For Joan she could make
Both butter and cheese,
Or pancakes, or puddings,
Without any fat,
A notable housewife
Was little Joan Sprat.

Joan Sprat went to brewing
A barrel of ale,
She put in some hops
That it might not turn stale
But as for the malt,
She forgot to put that,
This is sober liquor,
Says little Jack Sprat,

Jack Sprat went to market,
And bought him a mare,
She was lame of three legs,
And as blind as a bat,
Her ribs they were bare,
For the mare had no fat,
She looks like a racer,
Says little Jack Sprat.

Jack and Joan went abroad,
Puss took care of the house,
She caught a large rat
And a very small mouse,
She caught a small mouse
And a very large rat,
You are an excellent hunter,
Says little Jack Sprat.

Now I have told you the story
Of little Jack Sprat,
Of little Joan Cole,
And the one ear’d cat.
Now Jack has got rich.
And has plenty of pelf,
If you’d know any more,
You may tell it yourself.

Here’s to all the really real couples out there that are taking care of each other and making sure their loved ones stay fed and happy!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

 

A Story Book Forest Memory

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Throwback Thursday! I remember being a child in the 1980s and standing at the entrance to this gigantic story book in a forest in Pennsylvania. Two children were welcoming me to enter and the pages read:

“Here is the Land of Once upon a Time …Step through the pages of this big Story Book…and visit the people and places every child knows…and Loves. Here Dreams are real And so are your Story Book Friends.”

My family didn’t go on many trips, and my excitement was tangible. I loved to read, and I knew that once I walked through this door, wonderful things awaited me. Story Book Forest was my first Fairytale Park, and this trip is the very reason Enchanted Kiddieland exists!

I visited the park again in 2009 and stepped through the book as an adult. (it is still a massive sight to behold!) I felt the same excitement I had felt 30 years prior. I’ve been back one time since and each time that childlike wonder returns to me. I am so grateful that its still around today and remains, for the most part, unchanged!

What memories do you have from these parks? Did you walk through the pages of the big book?  Tell us here or on our Facebook page!

What Big Eyes you Have!

Little Red Riding Hood, Never Never Land, Hill Island, Ontario
A barefood Red Riding Hood & Overall clad Wolf  from  the now defunct Never-Never Land in Hill Island, Ontario. (1967-1980)

Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? You might be when you see some of these photos!

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In Ellicott City, MD a vintage postcard shows a living breathing Red Riding Hood on her walk near Grandma’s House at the now defunct Enchanted Forest.

Little Red Riding Hood is a classic European fairy tale that has been frightening children since the 10th century. In it, Red takes a walk through the woods to visit her sick grandmother, and take her some food. The simplicity of the story means that despite its age, it rarely deviates much in theme and language. There is always a little girl in a red hooded cape, a basket of food, and a big bad wolf disguised as grandmother in her bed. (The implication being that the wolf has already consumed dear old grandma as an appetizer and has stolen her nightgown.)

Red enters the house and launches into the memorable exchange with her grandmother:

What big eyes you have!
The Better to see you with, my dear

What big hands you have!
The Better to hold you with, my dear

What big teeth you have!
THE BETTER TO EAT YOU WITH MY DEAR!

Most parks wisely focus on the climax of this conversation and the best ones feature a terrified red riding hood and a scowling wolf.

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In What was formerly Storytown USA (now the Great Escape) Red Riding Hood and the Wolf  are found in Grandma’s filthy concrete bedroom. This 2007 photograph of the scene found on The Tourist Trap almost makes it appear as though Red won the battle! A victorious Red Riding hood stares at guests as a dead looking wolf lies nearby in bed like a hunting trophy. I don’t believe this display still existed when I visited a few years later.

Storyland Red Riding Hood

Over in New Hampshire at Story Land, We are warned by signs notifying us both of the path to Grandma’s house, as well as the wolf spotted in the bed. Red doesnt’ seem to frightened in this one, as Grandma Wolf pants happily. Their eye contact and expression sort of makes it seem like they are catching up after a few weeks away from one another! Maybe we have caught her in her last moments of innocence and she hasn’t yet realized that this is the wolf in disguise.

Story Book Forest RedRidingHood
Storybook Forest in Pennsylvania has signs that also warn of a wolf in the woods,. Another (bearing a wolf illustration) recommends that we take the high road. This sign reminded me of a cartoon, as I imagine that the wolf put it there himself in order to lead Red right to his big teeth! This scene is very effective, despite featuring no Red Riding Hood figure. I believe that the viewer is meant to play the role of Red here, which thrusts you right into the story. As you approach the door of the house, the wolf inside can be seen in bed with one eye open awaiting a delicious morsel!

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Holiday World’s (in Santa Claus, IL) is now known as a coaster destination, but it had its start as both a Santa park and a Kiddie park! Most of their vintage fairytale figures can be seen from the train ride, so of course this is where we found Red and the wolf hiding! This simple scene is also quite effective and features an innocent looking child who appears to be unaware of the sinister wolf lurking a few steps behind her. Though they abandoned the Grandmother disguise motif, I believe that the thoughtful positioning of these two figures convey the mean-spirited nature of this story more than some of the displays with stronger attention to detail.

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At the Enchanted Forest in Old Forge, NY, a brightly colored house from 1956 contains this familiar scene with a smiling mannequin standing in for Red Riding Hood, while a scraggly wolf sits upright in Grandma’s nightgown and cap. The wolf’s neck is so thin, I sort of want him to get something to eat!

Storybookland Red Riding Hood

Finally, my favorite Red Riding Hood and Big Bad Wolf are busy  terrifying children in Egg Harbor, NJ at Story Book Land. The display is newer, but I think that works to its advantage. First, take a moment to appreciate the location of Grandma’s house. Once you walk through the woods, down a winding brick path to a somewhat remote cottage (by tiny kiddie park standards, anyway!) you could be lucky enough to be the only person at the window when these two figures begin to move…that’s right. They move! Audio-animatronic figures retell the story in frightening detail. The wolf blinks, opens his mouth, and grabs at Red Riding Hood with a growl before resetting to scare the next group of kids. This display either mesmerized or horrified children and parents were seen either dragging them toward it or away from it. That alone puts it high on our list!

So, what do you think? Are you afraid of the Big Bad Wolf now?

Hansel and Gretel – Lost in The (Enchanted) Forest

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The holidays are coming, and soon you’ll begin to smell warm baking sweets wafting in the air.  After your delicious Thanksgiving meal, you too will want to stuff yourself with pies and cakes. But watch out – if you eat too much, you might be offered a long walk deep into the forest. Its starting to get dark early, and it’s very easy to get lost in those woods.

Such is the tale of Hansel and his sister Gretel, whose father reluctantly lured his children into the woods after being convinced by his new wife that the family could not afford to feed four mouths. Hansel, over-hearing the evil plan, cleverly decided to drop a path of breadcrumbs along the way so that the children could easily find their way back home. Poor Hansel, he didn’t account for the birds. On a night a lot like tonight, and after many days of wandering with no food, they had grown very desperate and hungry. The two children could hardly believe their eyes when they came upon a house made entirely of gingerbread, held together with icing, candies, and sweets. Just a little nibble won’t hurt anyone, right?

The Enchanted Forest in Old Forge New York opened in 1956, and at first glance,many would assume that the gingerbread house was built early in the park’s history. In the late 50s and early 60s story parks were booming and the Enchanted Forest was expanding attractions rapidly. In actuality, work on Hansel and Gretel’s house didn’t begin until 1981, and due to the complexity and size it took approximately 4 years to complete. The final cherry was put on top in time for the 1985 season, which means that next summer the house will be celebrating its 30th Anniversary! The Gingerbread house was designed by Jack Molesky who was the park artist for many years, and the level of detail and artistry are stunning to behold. The dripping rooftoops and giant candies really do look good enough to eat!

As you walk through Storybook Lane, the path winds through the ubiquitous tall trees of the Adirondacks, and when you’re deep in the woods you begin to feel as though you are lost too.  Once you reach the end of the path, the first thing you’ll encounter are the tall candy canes and lollipops among the trees, and just beyond those, you’ll catch your first views of the Gingerbread house. Plucked from a child’s dream; surreal, and out of place in nature, the house has dripping ice cream doorways, shingles built from frosted cookies, and candy cane frames. Chocolates, cookies, candy, and pretzels decorate the awnings. Its not until you look into the windows, that you realize the real treat is inside the house!

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As you approach the ice cream door, there is a tiny step for small kids to easily peek inside an open window. I can’t help thinking if this wasn’t designed deliberately to allow smaller children an opportunity to assert their independence. Surely looking in this window is a rite of passage for children eager to prove their bravery to their siblings and parents. Kids can look inside without an adult’s help. In fact, as a full grown adult I had to kneel if I wanted to look inside. I heard mom’s say “What’s in there? What’s inside?” But this wasn’t built for mom and dad. From its bright candy exterior, to the creepiness that lurks inside, the design accomplishes what the house in the story set out to do, to lure in and ultimately frighten children.

There is no sugar coating what’s behind the glass, the sweet candy house quickly turns sinister when you catch your first glimpse of an innocent Hansel held prisoner in the  back of the house, with a forkful of spaghetti and meatballs (still grasping a lollipop in his left hand). In the main room- a kitchen and across the gingham tablecloth, a scowling witch stands watch over a feast she has prepared with the intent of fattening up the lost children.

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Her green face, black pointed hat, and robe are inspired by Margaret Hamilton’s best known role in the Wizard of Oz. The archetypal pointed hat wearing witch with the green face did not exist prior to 1939, and even her angular features are reminiscent of the Wicked Witch of the West’s.

This witch appears to be deep in thought, trying to decide the best way  to cook these two little morsels that have wandered into her house. Hansel’s plans don’t always work out, and he doesn’t look smart enough to hatch a scheme to turn the tables on her in this scene either, so we’ll just have to assume that the story ends well. Maybe Gretel’s got the brains in the family.

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The exterior of house was very well maintained and it likely gets a fresh coat of paint regularly. It appears to have gone through some changes over the years, but I was unable to locate any other shots of the interior in my research. (If you’ve got any, I’d love to see more!) I was able to locate a few older images of the exterior. The first shows a very natural earth tone house with biscuits and donuts. This is a vintage postcard and I’m not convinced that this is an actual photograph. It could be a miniature artist’s rendering.  Perhaps it is a model created for concept or promotional artwork.

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Another photo shows a dazzling 1980s rainbow color scheme with bright candy store reds, yellows, and greens as opposed to the current mint green and pastel pink palette used today. This paint job is straight out of Rainbow Brite’s or Strawberry Shortcake’s colorful world.

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This house became an unexpected favorite of mine when I found it at the park, and I had to be pulled away from it, like most of the kids there. It’s a little off the beaten path, and can’t be seen immediately. I didn’t expect to fall in love with it, but there was something so wonderful about the mean spirited nature of the story baked into a sweet pink candy house, that I wanted to stay for dinner too.

I hope you’ve been paying attention. If you decide to go out walking in the forest, just remember those breadcrumbs won’t do you any good. Please, be very careful whose house you decide to nibble on, or you could get swallowed up by the woods on your way home…or something worse. And if your host keeps filling your plate this Thanksgiving, make sure you’re not the only one eating. She might still be preparing her feast.

 

And There He Kept Her Very Well

Since its almost fall on the east coast, and pumpkin EVERYTHING is about to start showing up at all restaurants and coffee shops, I thought we’d take a minute to look in on some of the pumpkin-dwelling residents of Kiddieland in today’s post.

Peter, Peter pumpkin eater,
Had a wife but couldn’t keep her;
He put her in a pumpkin shell
And there he kept her very well.

Something about this nursery rhyme has always troubled me (and my Women’s Studies degree), but we don’t hide the truth here at Enchanted Kiddieland so we’re going to delve into this tale of the controlling husband and his poor pumpkin-imprisoned wife.  That said, I’m pretty sure this isn’t what Virginia Woolf had in mind when she wrote A Room of One’s Own.

Enchanted Forest

Enchanted Forest-A heavily medicated housewife peers out of her pumpkin prison

At the Enchanted forest, a listless housewife peers out of a tiny window in her locked up prison house. She was built in 1956 afterall, but at least she is entertained. Among the giant seeds, she keeps books in the kitchen of “207 Pumpkin Recipes”, but still has time to read her “Goose Housekeeping” magazine.  The numb smile on her face seems to indicate that she is heavily medicated, maybe to deal with the mundanity of her daily life, and  to cope with her imprisonment. Please don’t tell Betty Freidan about this.

 

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Holiday World (Call the Police)

At Holiday World, things aren’t looking much better. Here we have an inbred looking Peter with his adorable victim wife crammed in a way-too-small pumpkin house, (if you can even call it a house!) He has the look on his face that I imagine Lenny must have had when he was petting rabbits to death in Of Mice and Men. Meanwhile, she looks like a terrified horror movie victim whose motivation is “In this scene, you’re about to be baked into a pumpkin pie by a psychopathic kidnapper.” For the love of god,  can someone please help this woman?

 

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Magic Forest GUHHHHHHHH!

Alright, that wasn’t disturbing enough for you? Let’s just move on to some nightmare fodder courtesy of the Magic Forest. In this upsetting scene, our homely, green-haired, dead-eyed wife seems to have escaped her pumpkin prison, while her  husband, Peter stands half bent over in some sort of horrific gravity defying stance. Is he trying to run away from her? His ghastly mouth agape, with his disconcerting black wig barely covering a misshapen head, his hands covering his butt, all with a cross-eyed transfixed look of terror on his face. Meanwhile his wife stands by stoically balancing a pumpkin on the back of her poorly sculpted hand. Yeah, we don’t know either, but if I were you, I’d run…Something is about to go down.

 

Storybook Forest

Storybook Forest HAAAAAY!

Now for a slightly calmer scene-Let’s swing by Storybook Forest. This wife appears to be on minimum security lockdown, as there are no padlocks, chains, or doors on her pumpkin. What a relief! Maybe that’s because she’s actually being held captive by a tiny pixie man. We photographed him twice, and he appears to have a flair for fashion, as he was spotted wearing a pastel yellow V-neck in the spring and a sassy little striped tank top in the summer. Despite the wide open doorways, there is however, a window covered with bars. Yeah, I don’t get it either, but I don’t think she’s very scared of him, she’s nowhere in sight and he seems less than concerned about it. We have reason to believe that his marriage might be a farce.

Storybook Land

Storybook Land- Pies for Days

What’s that? Another creep?-This crooked cane-carrying Peter stands guard outside his abode at Story Book Land prominently marked with the letter “P” on the door. He wants to make sure everyone knows who lives there. “You can’t miss it. Its the pumpkin shaped house, right next to the birthday cake shaped house. I’ll be standing outside in my pimp-hat and cane.” Sure, it looks cute from the outside, but inside a disheveled doll-wife is toiling away baking pies day and night. What kind of pies? Well, Pumpkin, naturally! At least it appears that in his infinite kindness, he has built her a little extra room to retire to, so when she’s done baking pies all day long and is sick to her stomach from the incessant smell of pumpkins, she can pop next door and relax insider her…other pumpkin house. Ugh. Nevermind.

 

Storyland

Storyland Everything is cuter in New Hampshire

That’s it, I can’t take anymore of this. Where is Gloria Steinem? Quick, someone please show me some pictures of a cute little small-world-esque  character peeking out of a round pumpkin window in her adorably decorated pumpkin house with wide open doors! OH, THANK YOU STORYLAND!

Ok, Finally, one that doesn’t make me want to call the police. This sweet little abode certainly has a woman’s touch; from the actual working ceiling fixtures (ooh, aaah!), to the sweet little place settings and the complimentary colors of her stove. The sweetest thing might be the working jack-o-lantern clock molded right into the wall. She’s also got a built in extension so she can really spread out here and as for location, her pumpkin house is perched atop a charming little rock bridge. This is finally one that will let me sleep soundly at night.

Feel better, everyone? Good. Now, I don’t know about you, but I could really go for a pumpkin spice latte, and maybe a piece of pie.