Candy Corn, the Roman Empire, and Other Cool Stuff

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by Scott Sorensen, sophomore writing coach

This is not a debate—we all love Halloween. So to save time, I’m not gonna debate how amazing it is. We’ll just jump right into what this blog post is really about—the history of October’s spookiest day.

I originally thought it was pretty simple, but it turns out that Halloween has its origins all over the place. To start with, it doesn’t come from one particular location. It’s a big smoothie of different cultures that all have one thing in common: they all honor the dead. From the Mexican holiday Dia de Los Muertos–an annual day for paying homage to the dead–to All Saints Day in Europe, there are celebrations all over the place. The first traceable origin of Halloween, though, was an ancient Celtic festival called Samhain. This was the Celts’ New Year, and also the annual shift into the harsh winter months. On this border between summer and winter, life and death, they believed that the lines between our world and the next blurred. So on October 31st, they celebrated the ghosts of the dead returning to earth. They’d have big bonfires, and dance around them in costumes made from animals they hunted. So here, we found the inspiration for Halloween costumes.

Later on, the Roman Empire barreled through and took over the Celtic lands. As a common strategy, empires encouraged assimilation with people they conquered, so they combined their holidays with those of the new people in order to create a more homogeneous kingdom and overall unity. The Romans were no different. They combined Samhain and older Roman festivals, especially those about the transition between this life and the afterlife. These traditions blossomed over empires and centuries, and the lines between different cultural celebrations became blurred.

Eventually, it evolved into what we now know as Halloween. This leaves us with one last question. How did it get to us, and the rest of America? In colonial days, Because of devoutly Christian immigrants to America, there was little celebrating done each year by colonists. Slowly, though, Halloween began to rise up. It mixed with Native American traditions, just like Celtic ideas did with the Romans, and an American Halloween was born. With the arrival of more and more immigrants who further reinforced our vision, the holiday prospered into its current popularity.

I think that ties up all the loose ends. As for candy corn, I have no explanation. Some dude probably just looked at a candle one day and wondered what it would be like if it tasted good. The history there isn’t my problem, though. I’ll eat my candy corn in peace.

It’s National Dessert Month!

by Tessa Lundheim, junior writing coach

October is such a festive time. The leaves change colors, kids go trick-or-treating, and excitement for Thanksgiving builds up. Now there’s another reason to celebrate because it’s National Dessert Month! October is the perfect time to celebrate desserts. Therefore, what better way to celebrate them than to talk about the origins of some fall classics. 


Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Pie

Believe it or not, the first form of pumpkin pie emerged in 1621 from the early American settlers of the Plymouth Plantation. At this time, pumpkin pie didn’t have a crust. It was prepared by filling hollowed-out pumpkin shells with milk, honey, and spices. Then it was baked in hot ashes. Although pumpkin pie seems 100% American, its next appearance was in 1651 when Francois Pierre la Varenne, a famous French chef and author, published a recipe for “tourte of pumpkin” in his cookbook The French Cook (translated to English in 1653). Unlike the recipe from the Plymouth Plantation, Varenne’s recipe finally included a crust. Later, in the 1670s, recipes for “pumpion pie” started popping up in English cookbooks. It wasn’t until 1796 that the pumpkin pie debuted in a truly American cookbook written by Amelia Simmons called American cookery, by an American orphan. Although she called her pie “Pompkin Pudding,” Simmons’s dessert was similar to present-day pumpkin pie.

Click here to learn more!


Candy Corn

Candy Corn

In the 1880s, more than two centuries after the invention of pumpkin pie, a new corn-kernel shaped treat came into existence. The Wunderlee Candy Company claims that candy corn was invented by one of their employees named George Renninger. Therefore, they were the first company to sell the candy. Later, in 1898, the Goelitz Candy Company (now Jelly Belly) began to sell candy corn as well. Today, candy corn is obviously made by machines, but when it first emerged, it was made by hand. Whether you hate or love it, there’s no denying that candy corn has become a symbol of fall and Halloween.

Click here to learn more!


Apple Crisp

Apple Crisp

Apple crisp is a dessert made of fresh apples that are topped with a streusel topping commonly made from oats, brown sugar, butter, spices, and flour. Unlike the pumpkin pie that’s hundreds of years old, the first printed recipe for apple crisp didn’t appear until 1924 in the Everybody’s Cook Book: A Comprehensive Manual of Home Cookery. Nevertheless, nearly 100 years of apple crisp history is no small feat.

Click here to learn more!


Pumpkin Spice

Pumpkin Spice

The next dessert, pumpkin spice, isn’t really a dessert, but rather a flavor phenomenon that swept over the nation and was used to season many different types of treats. Pumpkin pie spice was reportedly invented by McCormik’s in 1934. The spice itself includes cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice, and it’s used as a shortcut for the flavoring of pumpkin pie. However, companies began to use pumpkin pie spice (also known as pumpkin spice) to flavor anything from snack foods and cereals to pet shampoos and alcoholic beverages. As a result, the sale of pumpkin spice products increased by 80% in 2011. Then, Starbucks launched its Pumpkin Pie Spice-Spiked Espresso and its Pumpkin Spice Latte that have been sold hundreds of millions of times in the past decade. I’ve never tried a pumpkin spice beverage from Starbucks because I’m not the biggest fan of pumpkin spice. Nevertheless, I can’t help recognizing the spice that has become a fall staple for many people, with 95% of pumpkin pie spice sales occurring between August and November.

Click here to learn more!


Caramel Apples

Caramel Apples

I love caramel apples. Thanks to the rich caramel and tart apples, they’re truly the perfect blend of sweet and sour. Surprisingly, these tasty treats weren’t invented until the 1950s. The idea for caramel apples emerged somewhat by accident when Dan Walker, a sales rep for Kraft Foods, experimented with dipping apples in leftover Halloween candy. Little did he know that his invention would become a widely loved fall dessert. Later, in 1960, Vito Raimondi invented the first automated caramel apple dipping machine with the help of his uncle, William Raimondi. Thanks to Vito Raimondi’s innovation, the Raimondi company is still the leading producer of caramel apples today. 

Click here to learn more!


How will you make this National Dessert Month special? Happy baking!



Constellations to Look for This Fall (and Their Mythologies)

by Erin Brose, junior writing coach

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       If there’s anything that can slow down our frenzied lives, it’s laying out on a crisp fall night, and marveling at the stars. Autumn is a great season to see numerous notable constellations, no matter where you are. And, there are wondrous mythological stories behind each of these twinkling shapes in the sky. I want to share three of these stories with you and encourage you to take a peek at our autumn night sky.

Andromeda Constellation

  1. Andromeda, The Chained Lady

Andromeda was the daughter of King Cepheus and Queen Cassiopeia, the rulers of Ethiopia. After Andromeda was born, Cassiopeia proudly boasted that her daughter was more beautiful than anyone else. Hearing this greatly offended Poseidon, who created sea nymphs, and believed that they were the most beautiful beings. Beauty is subjective, right? Angrily, Poseidon created a sea monster, Cetus, to destroy the lands of Ethiopia that Cepheus and Cassiopeia ruled. 

To protect Ethiopia, Cassiopeia sacrificed Andromeda to the sea monster. Andromeda was chained to a rock at the seashore and left to wait for the sea monster. As Cetus approached, Perseus flew in (on his winged sandals from Hermes, of course!) and fought the ravenous sea monster. After rescuing Andromeda, the two got married and Andromeda returned home with Perseus as his queen.

Shape: Depicts a lady flailing her arms as though she’s falling

Neighboring constellations: Pegasus and Cassiopeia

Aquarius Constellation

  1. Aquarius, The Water Bearer

Ganymede is most commonly associated with the Aquarius constellation. Ganymede was the reputedly handsome prince of Dardania. One day, Ganymede’s looks caught the attention of Zeus. Zeus sent his messenger eagle, Aquila, down to earth to bring Ganymede back up to Mount Olympus. On Mount Olympus, Ganymede brought the gods water whenever they needed and also served as cupbearer to Zeus. To honor Ganymede for his service, Zeus placed a constellation called Aquarius, which means water carrier, among the stars.

Shape: Depicts a man pouring a bucket of water

Neighboring constellations: Aquila, Capricornus

Capricorn Constellation

  1. Capricornus, The Sea Goat

Cronus, the god of time, was once told by an oracle that one of his sons would grow up to be very strong and eventually kill him in battle. Cronus began ordering that every son born of him be killed, and he would even swallow some of his sons after they were born. In order to protect her son from his father Cronus, Zeus’ mother gave Zeus to some sea nymphs and ordered that they take him far away and raise him safely. The sea nymphs brought a special goat Amalthea to nurse Zeus. As Zeus grew older, Amalthea became a playmate and companion. 

One day, as Zeus was playing with Amalthea, he broke off one of her horns. Zeus took this as a sign that he was supposed to break off his relationship with Amalthea and the sea nymphs and go fight his father, Cronus. Zeus defeated Cronus and was now the king of the gods.  The first thing he did as king was place the constellation Capricorn in the heavens in honor of Amalthea and the sea nymphs who had raised him. 

Shape: Depicts the front half of a goat and the tail of a fish

Neighboring constellations: Pisces, Aquarius

Stargazing Tips:

  1. Cover your phone flashlight with red paper so your eyes can stay adjusted to the dark! Any harsh light can impair your night vision.
  2. Download and print out the star chart linked below. Or you can use a snazzy app such as Sky Guide.
  3. Use binoculars to get a better view. Take a look at the moon and its craters too! You can find cheap ones at Target that work well.

So get out your binoculars and blankets, grab your friends, and go look at the stars! (Snacks would be good too)

You Are So Enough.

by Jeana Schafer, senior writing coach

The 2019-20 school year’s first coach blogpost? Yikes. That’s almost as spooky as October! 

You know what’s also spooky? I thought I would come into this knowing exactly what I wanted to write; I brainstormed and even drafted a few ideas, but none of them felt worthy of being the first.


Alright, I’ll admit it: I am a perfectionist. I put unbelievable pressure on myself to not only get things done but to do them right, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. There are times where I cannot get myself to start an assignment because I know I am not in the mindset to do it right.

But… what defines “right”? 

It’s interesting, isn’t it? We as human put so much pressure on ourselves when we already have numerous external pressures to deal with. Maybe you don’t concern yourself as much with academics, but I bet the mistakes you make in your sport hit hard. Or maybe you don’t prefer athletics, but you are haunted by those few off-key notes during a musical performance, whether it be band, choir, or orchestra. Maybe you’re out of high school and trying to pretend, like every other adult, that you know what you’re doing, and sometimes you struggle. 


Take a moment to think about the ways you unfairly treat yourself when you make mistakes in areas that are important to you. Think about how much effort you put into trying, and the stress you place on yourself to practice until you get it right.

Self-improvement is important, and I believe that a little bit of pressure does wonders for motivation, but there’s a limit. Wanting to be good is one thing, and wanting to improve is admirable. The part I feel many of us get caught up in is the difference between excellence and perfection.

Perfection is a concept that does not exist in reality because it is too malleable to individual perception. You are perfect because you are you, but you will drive yourself crazy if you always strive for perfection. Your perception of perfection will always change as you improve and develop a deeper understanding in the mastery of your art. Just trust me on that; nothing stops the bar from raising higher.J3

Take pride in what you do; give yourself some credit where it truly is deserved. If you’re like me, it probably takes a lot for you to tell yourself, “You know what? I did good.” 

It took me a long time to realize that I judge myself far more harshly than anyone else, and inversely, I’m far easier on others than they are on themselves. It’s something to work on, for sure… writing this out has certainly been a step along the right path.

I’ll say this: You already are perfect because you give what you can give in the moment, even if you don’t believe that what you give is perfect. I can’t fully internalize that statement, and that’s okay. Maybe it’s more realistic to say instead, “Mistakes are not failures. Nobody’s perfect, but the best people learn from their mistakes.”


I have full confidence that this blogpost isn’t perfect…but really, who gets to decide that? 

So… you know what? I did good. 

Now it’s your turn to go out there and believe in yourself, no matter how little or how much you can give. It’s enough.

You are enough.

Setting Sail with a New Year of Writing It Out

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That’s right! We’re back for our sixth year and are super excited to get blogging!  Behind the scenes are Urmee Das (junior), Bella Hueffmeier (senior), Ellie McRae (senior), Faith Quist (senior), Ellie Retzlaff (junior), Julia Ruelle (senior), and Maya Schrof (senior). 

Rumor has it Principal Jeff Erickson will be returning for his second annual guest post on Writing It Out… if that doesn’t get you excited for another year then we’ll try this:

We’ve redesigned the blog! Uniting the previous nautical aesthetic of Writing It Out with the sketched aesthetic of the Minnetonka Writing Center logo, we’ve created what is now our theme for the year: setting sail. Our largely popular “Study Spots” section is now titled “Set Sail” to create a space for all things adventure and exploration, whether it be a quaint cafe from La Rotonde or a peaceful park from Voyageur. Writing it Out co-editors Julia Ruelle and Ellie Retzlaff will be channeling their inner outdoorswoman and blogging about nature in Voyageur this year! 

We will also be revamping the events page with a new name, Making Waves, and regular updates on events at the Writing Center.  Some favorite events in the past have been Off The Page, open mic night, spooky stories for Halloween, thank you cards at Thanksgiving, and many more, so stay tuned for updates on what’s to come in the Writing Center. 

But with all of these new and exciting changes, fear not; you can still expect to enjoy our Thursday morning posts as well as book reviews and guest posts. Whether you are a veteran subscriber or a newcomer, we are thrilled to have you! With a year of fun changes ahead, it’s time to Set Sail!



Your 2019-20 Writing it Out Editors: Urmee Das, Bella Hueffmeier, Ellie McRae, Faith Quist, Ellie Retzlaff, Julia Ruelle, and Maya Schrof