Saturday, December 20, 2014

Of Wizards, Murder Mavens, and Gargoyles

Hi. My name? Homer J Goyle. Yeah, I look gruesome now, you should have seen me when I was headless.
I was called "The Headless One" by many a students here on the grounds of NIU. I was never so happy to get my new head back on my shoulders, now I can check on the women--uh, er, I mean I can guard the grounds near the old castle.
Okay, right. I was supposed to do this post for Lorelei. Color me forgetful. I'm a gargoyle after all. Got stone for head. Get it? He he.
Well... where was I?
Oh, right, right.
The post.
Today's post is updates. Well, Lorelei is busy. Has a few more long days of driving a Huskie Bus around town, trying to avoid hectic holiday traffic and all. I wouldn't know about that. I'm sitting in a courtyard. I see some vehicles pass, and people stop and take pictures of me. One guy took many, many, many of me. In fact he came on a couple of occasions and that's one of the pictures above. Lorelei was able to cajole him into taking a few picks of me. What can I say? I'm handsome, right?

Er, back to the main post.
Uh, oh. I'm to mention Lorelei is a writer, but I understand, plus she makes things with her hands. Mostly afghans, but other things like hand warmers and cowls. Hmmm. Don't know what those things are, but whatever.
She's also working on other things to take to local craft shops soon. As soon as she can get off the frigging bus--her words, not mine.
And after the holidays. She says she and husband are going to have a quiet Christmas Eve watching "It's A Wonderful Life" and something traditional, like ham, scalloped potatoes, green beans and a holiday meatball thing she says is easy to make and requires some strange ingredients like grape jelly and chili sauce. (If I could, I'd be shrugging, since I don't eat, I don't know what sort of strange things people eat)

Ah, and she tells me that her local bookstore--the only one left standing--is closing at end of the month, and she hopes to find a few books, or whatever, left to buy. 
Currently she's into murder mysteries, and something called The Dresden Files. Oh, wait. I've got a picture here... Oh! here it is.
Yep. She told me she picked this hardback up just the other day for only $5.99 at her local grocery store. I don't know. Is that a good thing? I haven't a clue. Now, I don't read, mind, but the whole thing is sort of, well, up my alley, so to speak. Dresden is a wizard PI, from Chicago. She tells me that there was something about the guy in a fedora that caught her eye. Then, she said she'd read his very first book (Jim Butcher), and thought it was okay, and wanted to read another, but she just hadn't been able to do that. Other things on her plate--so she says. But she likes to read a male point of view in the fantasy realm. She's begun this latest adventure, but she's way behind. I mean like more than a dozen were written before this. Oh, well, I guess she'll just have to catch herself up.

That was one of the books she's read. Here is the other one, which she's finished, and wants more of:
She says she used to watch the show, and loved it. Now, she can't get enough of these mysteries and hopes to snag a few soon.
And, when she can, she'll be posting herself. I hope so. This is murder on my stone fingers!
Oh, and if you're out here during the night, watch out for things that move around unseen. Well, I see them, of course. Duh!
I've gotta go back to my uh-er duties now. It was nice visiting with you folks!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Hi Kids!

I didn't have any better title. This is my up-dates...

Well, we, in Illinois are having a mild winter (he-he, I made the prediction that we'd have one, and I guess, so far, I win--everyone else was saying it was going to be "worse than last year"). Temps today are approaching 40. Last year at this time we had a foot of snow down, and it was beginning that downward trend of temps going below freezing and staying in single digits. We have no snow, and about the only weather problem is the fog. I'll take 40 degrees and fog any day!

As for me, I've been crocheting my fingers off (not literally, but close). I've just finished a pair of mittens. They're cute and should keep my fingers warm. I've made the fingerless gloves up til now, and found a mitten pattern that I felt up to trying and by golly, I did it! And you thought such things were only knitted. Tut tut.

Meanwhile, I'm working on two afghans--well, one is only a throw since it's only 44" x about 78"--long enough to fit on a couch, and for one person to snuggle under. My other one is larger, and is in fall colors. Since it takes me months to complete one, and repeated visits to where I buy yarn (yeah, I just like to go into the store and browse, so, yeah...) But it keeps me out of trouble. I can get into trouble all by myself, thank you. (keep reading)

Take when I had the middle part of the day off, because my wonderful husband took over a run (driving a bus) for me, and I decided I'd go to Panera. Bad idea. I dumped hot soup all over down my front. Well, they had all these damned orders piling up, and mine was over in this corner, plus the stupid counter where you pick up your order is tall--almost taller than where my shoulder comes to. So, I picked up the tray--which was slick, mind you, and the damned hot soup spilled, and stupid me, I tried to catch it from dumping, and there it went all over my shirt. I should have just let it drop to the stupid floor and made them clean it up and make me a new bowl. I'm stupid when I'm alone. Well, the shirt is ruined, but it was old. I had it in my hair, too. Some lady that cleans there sort of helped me get cleaned up before I went to the bookstore. I smelled of broccoli cheddar soup all day, and I still had to go pick up my husband (who'd had an equally bad day).

I've made the decision to go back into crafting. I've noticed that craft shows are still going strong. I'm not ready to do those, yet. Years ago, when I decided to quit crafting and put all my efforts into my writing, I threw all my paints and other stuff out. Fortunately I still have some patterns I used. But I can get this stuff again, no problem. But not until I've gotten myself firmly in place at a local craft store will I expand into that. I want to test the waters, so to speak, and see what is popular.

What will I work on during the non-winter months? Well, more stuff, of course, since it takes a while to make things. The mittens- each one - took about 1 &1/2 hours to 2hours to do.

But I thought I would make Eco-friendly string grocery bags, like these:

On the writing front... Yes, I'm still working on the next book to come out at some point this winter. Oh, here's a photo my friend Karen Kuban-Bell (no relation), took of a gargoyle that sits on NIU property.
Photo by Karen Kuban-Bell
Gargoyle guarding "Castle"
This isn't the one I chose, but when she found out I needed help to make it into a book cover, she happily said she'd love to work on it for me-do the cover. Well, Santa has given me an early Christmas gift in that respect!

Now, before I leave you, here are some blogs to check out.
The Kill Zone has the 2014 recap. that is if you want to hear the bad news of the year all over again (in case you missed any of it). On to more bizarre things As The Crowe Flies has some strange pictures--not that the images were strange, but when she photographed some common things they sort of got some haunting images appear in them, some how--she swears she didn't touch them up. I'm still not sure about that last one--sort of sends shivers up my spine. Holly's Horrorland is celebrating the 13 Days of Creepmas, and she's been giving stuff away, so I hope I'm not too late in putting this up here. And if you want something yummy to keep you warm, here is Krisztina Williams' DIY Hot Coco mix the ingredients are real simple.

Well, that's my wrap-up for mid-December. I've still got to get through the next several days of driving, and then I'll be off for 2 weeks (no pay), and I'll be hanging out with my best friend (Dennis), and doing my usual.
Until then... stay safe and don't wear yourself out on the holiday stuff. It's over-rated!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Outlasting the Storm [of Indies]

Isn't this beautiful? A pine cone in nature is beautiful in its shape and purpose, and I find them hard to resist when I come across them in one of our pine forests around here. I've collected a pail full this fall. I had plans to do something with them, and came across this idea over the Internet. Let me tell you briefly about it, and I'll come to my point soon.

If you've noticed, this pine cone is nearly white! How did it become that way? Well, it didn't happen in nature. Someone bleached it. The process is, shall we say, a bit of a challenge, dedication, and work. And if you don't know what you're doing, it might not come out right. You see, you take a pail of water, add just the right amount of bleach and let the cones soak over night--or something around 12 hours or so--and then you take them out and rinse them thoroughly, and then, you have to let them dry (either in the sun or an oven). But when finished you have a beautiful ornament--if it works!

So, what's this got to do with writing? As you can see there is a process, an amount of time devoted to making it, and a formula. And if this isn't done quite right, you'll come out with mushy pine cones that smell of bleach. If that happens the only thing you can do is--WHAT? GIVE UP?!!! 

No. you go back to the starting point. 

I've used this analogy because it is simple. Today's blog is about NOT giving up, but having a bit of a break. And I wanted to bring up a point, too. Something I've been thinking on, recently, and lo-and behold, someone blogged about it. James Scott Bell's post goes into great detail about how some are saying the profits from ebook sales for Indie authors have dropped. He explores/examines the reasons, and gives a couple of links from the Passive Voice blog, where someone has also expounded upon the reason, and goes into more detail than I will here. But, I think you've seen it too. More people are putting up their works over on Amazon than ever before. Bell describes this ocean of titles as "sprouting like steroid-laced Kudzu". And it really is. Why not? Anyone can do it if they've got a cover, and figure out how to get the formatting down. A ten-year old could do it. But should he?

If you are an author, you must have noticed this wave of new authors out there pimping their books/titles on facebook--you know, those groups for writers where you try and pimp your ebooks--to other authors. I think there must be hundreds of them now. I've talked about this before. The only people who you are putting your titles out to are other authors who also are trying to get sales. You aren't gaining new readers by doing this. Not really. Your readership has to come from regular (non-writing) folks. The only way to do this is gain them one at a time, and if they truly like your work, it will be from word-of-mouth. Not by hitting the share button on your book's page over on Amazon a couple hundred times a day. I've done it, yes, but sparingly. I find that the same people are popping up on those groups I belong to on facebook. I'll see the same one or two people over and over down that list, Is it a wonder I've given up trying to compete with them? It's nuts! I don't have the time to waste on this. And it is a waste of my time when I could be doing other things--such as writing or anything else I want, or need to do throughout the day.

But back to what might be going on with sales on Amazon. Okay, I've thought about this a lot. This is why I'm doing something else right now, and not worrying about whether or not I get the 8th book done in the series, because the 5th, 6th &7th are written. They just need some editing, and I'm basically done. My sales were good, and then they went flat. They might pick up when I put out #5, but I need the photo for the next book cover, and my people (photographers), aren't supplying. So, *shrug*.... I won't get all hyper about this. I'm exploring my other creative venues, and I'm just chilling from writing. I don't know how long I'm going to take a break(this time), but it's going to be a break of more than a few weeks. It might be months, or longer.

Some authors who may quit writing because they are experiencing this drop (or stoppage) in sales, or let's just call it a brick wall--because everyone they know has bought their ebooks. They don't understand why no one else will buy it. They'd have to write another book, and then another book, and yet another book... well, you see where I'm going. Yep, in order to get more sales they'd have to simply keep on writing the same old crap. I think the majority of these new Indies are a one- or two-book author, and can't come up with another book idea that would be as good as the first. So, I'm just going to wait this (storm) out and see what happens. Some of these Indies who are considering quitting really should because they aren't really "writers". They had this "great" idea for a book, thought it would make them a lot of money, maybe their initial sales were good--yeah, they probably have a lot of friends and family who supported them and bought their book, but after that, they're finished. They can't come up with another idea for another story. Or, if they did, maybe somewhere in the middle, or the beginning of that next "great" novel, they can't come up with the rest of it, and sort of lose interest in working on it so hard. Well, here's a news flash: they aren't writers. Yeah. I've weathered 30 years of trying to get published either by trying to interest a publisher, or an agent. I didn't quit then, and I'm unable to simply quit writing, so, that seems to pin it down for me.

Let me give you another quote from Mr. James Scott Bell: "...the successful writers are the ones who can't not write. Who exhibit persistence, discipline, production of words. Who write in the face of serial rejection or dismal sales."  Well, if this describes you, congratulations! If not. Just get off my cloud.

I'm taking a slight hiatus from writing. When I feel the need I will jot a few notes down, if I have an idea for a scene (which is constant, and I have ideas daily), I will write them down. In the early '90's I took a four-year break. I went into crafts. I worked at a craft store and had a booth there, I also had my crafts in two other stores. But although I made money--checks monthly--I found that I was putting the money back into my crafts. This time, I'm going to concentrate on a few things. I'm not going to broaden my horizons to the point I'm looking over the ocean. Even though I can do just about any craft I put my mind to (including the above one, which I'll try next summer), I'm thinking that working on just a few crocheted things for now might be the best way to start out. Branching out will come later. I've a couple of places nearby who still take crafters--one takes rent, but the rent is beyond me right now (mainly because soon the big season of Christmas will be over, and coming up with $30/month might become impossible, depending upon sales). So, I'm going to play it smart.

Do you have what it takes to outlast those who are out there, hawking their books and finding difficulty in finding new readers? Can you last through the low sales/storm of Indies, and keep on writing? If you truly can't not write, then you need to keep going. I encourage you to keep on going.

As for me... uh, well, this sums it up. I think I'll take a cat nap for a while.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Lorelei's Writing Journal: Pushing Away November Blues by Making Warm Things

Hi, everyone! I've written this latest post over on my writing journal. This is what I've been up to.


Lorelei's Writing Journal: Pushing Away November Blues by Making Warm Things: Hello, all my pretties. In case you were so doused in the abnormal winter chill in your area, you didn't know that we, in the north part...

Friday, October 31, 2014

"The Blood Is the Life!"

If you're not sick of vampire posts today--or this week--then, here's one more for you, from the vampire queen (me).

Before I go further, let me explain that when I was a teenager, I got into vampires, and the interest has stayed with me. I wrote my first vampire novel (unpublished), in 1980-'83. Now I write a series with vampires and whatnot, and I have a blast doing it!

Being that my interests were cut and clear (and they just don't teach this stuff in school, y'know?), I had to investigate it all on my own. I researched the hell out of it, looking up anything in the library that had to do with vampires, and anything in the newspapers got clipped out, and I still have those browned clippings in a file.

My first experience with the vampire came from watching the old films such as "Dracula" with Bela Lugosi. His performance as Dracula is unforgettable--on stage as well as on screen. He was the film personification of dark evil. I must say, I enjoyed staying up late just to watch these films (all of the monster movies), and earned the reputation as being "weird". Now, vampires are cool. Go figure. I think vampires, and people who get into them has finally come full circle.

Bela Lugosi as Dracula
The word 'vampire' is a Romanian word meaning 'blood-drinker'. The bat who dons this name was given it by Cortez when he remembered the vampire legends of Europe.

So how was it that the term came to apply to humans? During the middle ages European nobles interbred and this led to various genetic disorders--as one can imagine. But one was hemophilia. In this case the term "Royal Blood" held more than water in this case. Among the many disorders there was one which didn't gain enough medical attention. In fact, its mysterious problems probably caused too much attention, as far as the sufferer was concerned. This decease is called erythropoietic protoporphyria (say that three times fast--just typing it was hard, and I'm not even sure it's spelled correctly). This disorder causes the body to produce too much porphyrin, which is a substance all red blood cells must have to be normal. The absence of such results in redness of the skin, eyes and teeth. Even the upper lip tends to recede. But the most bizarre thing that really made the poor soul's life hell is that they were allergic to sunlight. The skin would crack and bleed. Yeah, nice, huh? So, you can just figure that doctors who didn't know how to treat the disease came up with having the patient locked up in a dark cellar or attic during the daylight hours (to prevent bleeding), and for any loss of blood, they were given blood to drink--gak! I'm sure it was probably animal. Transfusions were not yet invented.

Just think of the rumors which must have run rampant in a small village back then! Keeping a child, or adult in a dark cellar during the day and let out at night to drink blood!

Now, back to Dracula. As we all know Bram Stoker did NOT invent the vampire. He DID invent his character "Dracula". So, where did Stoker get the idea of vampires? He was influenced heavily by a 900-page "penny dreadful" novel called, "Varny the Vampyre", which was written by James Malcolm Rymer. The story was written in 109 weekly installments in the mid-1800's. It was the first vampire novel in English, and the first vampire fiction since the original short story by John Polidori "The Vampyre".

But where these two authors bring nothing new to the whole vampire literature scene, Bram had a fantastic idea and used an historical figure who was, himself, pretty much the bloodiest psychotic of them all, bar none.

Enter Drakulya, aka The Impaler.
Dracula, Vlad Tepes (the Impaler)
First of all the names of Dracula and his father Dracul are important. Both father and son had the given name "Vlad". The names "Dracul" and "Dracula" are nicknames, and to be really confusing, these nicknames had two meanings. "Dracul" meant "devil," as it still does in Romanian today. In addition it meant "dragon."  Of course they were in the Order of the Dragon--a semi-monastic, semi-military organization dedicated to fighting the Turks. From what I've dug up is that Dracula means "son of the dragon" or "son of the devil." A most important point in this is that the words "devil" and "vampire" are interchangeable. Interesting. No?

Bram's Stoker's novel Dracula is one of the most horrifying books in English literature. Published in May of 1897, and was an immediate success, and has never been out of print, and is still a best seller.

Possibly the setting for Dracula in Transylvania was because it was, and still is, a far-away land, where anything can happen. It even sounds exotic!

Now, also there is the blatant sexual fantasies derived from the story, and those that follow it (including the films). Much of the novel's appeal comes from its hostility toward female sexuality. You've got the Oedipus complex--a kind of incestuous, necrophilous, oral-anal-sadistic thing going on throughout. What are we talking about? The blood-sucking? Pleeeeeze! It's core fantasy is all sexual.

Well, I see the hour is getting late, and I must leave you. If you have never picked up Bram Stoker's Dracula, you should, if you enjoy vampires. Speaking of which, I haven't opened my copy in a while. I may just have to pick it up again.

Let me leave you with a little bit from Dracula. Set up, Harker is snooping around the castle, trying to find a way out. He is being held captive. Finally he stumbles across boxes--coffins?

"There, in one of the great boxes, of which there were fifty in all, on a pile of newly dug earth, lay the Count! He was either dead or asleep, I could not say which--for the eyes were open and stony, but without the glassiness of death--and the cheeks had the warmth of life through all their pallor, and the lips were as red as ever. But there was not sign of movement, no pulse, no breath, no beating of the heart. I bent over him, and tried to find any sign of life, but in vain. He could not have lain there long, for  the earthy smell would have passed away in a few hours. By the side of the box was its cover, pierced with holes here and there. I thought he might have the keys on him, but when I went to search I saw the dead eyes, and in them, dead though they were, such a look of hate, though unconscious of me or my presence, that I fled again up the castle wall. Regaining my own chamber, I threw myself panting upon the bed and tried to think..."

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Big Bad Werewolves

Even he who is pure of heart
And says his prayers by night
May become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms
And the moon is full and bright.
This poem is actually from the 1941 film "The Wolfman" invented by screenwriter Siodmak.

What the vampires were to Transylvania, the werewolves were to northern and western Europe. The werewolf legends may have sprung from myths of the Norse gods who were said to change into animal forms, such as the bear and wolf. But practically every nation has its were-creatures lore.

wax  reproduction of Henry Hull
as the wolfman

And, of course our wolfy friends have had their moments forever vilified in films, like Werewolf of London (1935), and The Wolfman (1941), and newer, modern versions, which became more graphic, such as The Howling (I-III) And my favorite so far has always been with Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer in the 1994 film,Wolf  

I could spend the whole post talking about the films, but I won't. If you have interest in them, you can catch the links, or go find the DVD's. What really fascinates me--because my tastes go with the really bizarre--are the real-life cases, which usually turn out to be even more crazy than what they can put in a book or on film. Just like with the vampire lore, there are actual, real stories where the cases were quite strange, and may have helped feed the legends.

Take for instance the Beast of Gevaudan. From 1764 to 1767 and unknown monster terrorized shepherds and those who worked in the fields near the Auvergne Mountains in France. Known as the Beast of Gevaudan, the creature was said to have savagely attacked and killed at least 40 people--some were childre--and attacked many more. The locals claimed the creature was red, and covered with scales, and had a mouth the size of a lion's. Yeah... right. It could run at great speeds and evade any trap or hunter. I'd run like hell too! But, you know how a tall tail get even taller, once it's spread from mouth-to-mouth. Especially if there's a pint in the hand. Anyway, in 1767 a large wolf was killed and the attacks ceased. Go figure.

Another story of a man named Stubb, a brutish woodcutter who had been cornered in a forest ravine by a large hunting party with a pack of hounds. He was on all fours, they say, snapping and snarling like a beast, he had fought with inhuman strength until they overcame him.
There are dozens of documented cases of lycanthrope.

Petrus Gonsalvus
Wolfman of Munich
In some cases, werewolf stories may be founded on fact. Odd cases, fortunately are rare, but there have been people who believed they were animals and have killed, eaten raw flesh or blood. This condition is known as zoanthropic paranoia. Yeah, well, it just goes to show that you just don't know your neighbor all that well...

Another odd story is the "wolfman from the Canary Islands". Meet Petrus Gonsalvus(left), aka "The Wolfman from Munich" aka "the man of the woods". He was born in 1537 in Tenerife, and his life was pretty well chronicled, as he was, well, an oddity in life.

He went to Paris to refine his rough manners. As luck would have it, he married a pretty woman, but their children inherited his hairy traits. His condition is called "Hypertrichosis", or "the werewolf syndrome". At last account, the portrait of Gonsalvus is in Castle Ambras, otherwise known as the "Frankenstein Gallery", or the "Chamber of Art and Curiosities" It's filled with a few of the more grotesquely disfigured people, like the man with disabilities, or the one who had somehow lived with a lance that pierced his other eye. Ouch!

Gregor Baci who was healed after having
a lance pierce his right eye
Well, my pretties, I hope I've brought you some amount interesting visuals, as well as stories of the macabre in my post about "werewolfery".

Tomorrow, (if I have time), I'm going to wind this series up with my post about vampires... 
Hmmm, who do we all know that has been accused in many movies, books and such as a vampire?

Vlad The Impaler "Dracula"

Thursday, October 23, 2014


It's most likely that someone you know has told you that they've seen, a ghost, or knows of a house, graveyard, or other spots which are haunted. By haunted I mean the cold drafts where there should be none, weird smells, misty objects that move and then disappear (especially around stairways), and sounds that can't be explained, such as rapping on walls, thunks, or objects that move or fall off walls. Or, maybe you've had such experiences? Either in your own home, or in another? And it need not be as creepy as these places either...

I've dealt with a ghost in our 1906 farm house from time to time, although as of late (for the past several years), it's been very quiet. The original people who built the house homesteaded the area. Their last name was McGurr, and I'll come back to this in a moment.

If you go to your bookstore (if you still can find one), right now I'll bet you can find a dozen or more coffee table books on haunted places. If you go on a tour of older homes, you'll likely be told that it is haunted. I've been told many times by people who work in the older buildings at NIU, where I drive a bus. Libraries and basements seem to be the best chance to find a ghost. There's a multitude of famous dead people who are said to be haunting famous places. Like Anne Boleyn who they say haunts the Tower of London. Or Rose who walks a famous graveyard near Chicago.

And some who have an unusual amount of supernatural, or unexplained phenomena happening night after night open up their homes around this time of year and attract thousands of visitors every year for tours, and make a little loot off of their ghosts--and why not? The glowing mist floating around the room would really raise the hair on my arms, for sure!

It's believed that around this time of year, Halloween, or Samhain (pronounced sow-'n) is when the veil between our world and that of the dead is thinnest, and it would be relatively easy to communicate with the spirits of loved ones who have died during the previous year.
Some people hire a spirit medium in order to contact the dead person who may be haunting a house. There are also those who investigate hauntings. We have people who do that in our area. I'm sure that is an interesting side-line.

Now, I'm going to tell you about our ghost(s). We've had some nights where banging on walls and other phenomenon happened around this old house, especially when we first moved in. One night, we were sitting watching TV when a strange clattering sound came from down in the basement. It sounded to me like a large round piece of metal fell, and made that wobbly sound before it settles. We have a cistern, that isn't very deep and I thought it sounded exactly like a covering might sound if someone were to lift one end and just let it fall. But there was/is no such covering on it.

We've lived in the old McGurr house for 20 years now. In the beginning we had a LOT of weird sounds and happenings. The usual was rapping on walls at night. Once I swear while in bed the sound of what might have been a shoe dropping maybe three feet on the other side of the bed had me holding my breath for a minute, waiting to hear anything else. My husband claimed to be asleep at the time. There were the steer horns that were above the threshold that fell, missing my husband by only a few feet, and a glass that--by his description--shot out of the cupboard and shattered when he opened the cupboard.

But the weirdest thing that happened was the day before we were to host the descendants of the McGurrs on a walk through the house as part of a family gathering (they requested it through the park district superintendent, and since we live here as park managers, we complied). This meant we had to clean the house, top to bottom. There are three floors--if you include the roomy attic. We were nearly finished, and left the one room that had a bad bug problem for last. the floor was littered with dead flies and so forth (bad seal around a window), and one of us had to go up and sweep the bugs up. My husband went up to do this, while I was busy doing something else at the base of the stairs.

 About a minute later my husband calls down to me "Did you sweep up the bugs up here?" he asked from the top of the stairs.

"No," I said.

"Well... who did? There isn't a bug anywhere," he said.

I ran upstairs, thinking he was joking. I got to the room and he was right. There wasn't a bug to be found anywhere. And unless one of us did this during an episode of sleepwalking (we aren't sleepwalkers), there is no explanation other than the ghost we came to call "Old Mrs. McGurr", who we had heard a number of little stories about, had come up and cleaned this room, knowing her off-spring were coming to visit. Weird. Right?

Well, the next day the grandchildren of the McGurrs--all grown with their own grand kids--came out for the tour, each of them had a memory about some part of the house. It was a nice visit. When the tour was over, I took a couple of the ladies aside, because they were talking about ghosts, and told them what had happened the day before. They looked at one another, and then one of them said, "That was the old mother." In other words, Mrs. McGurr, who slept in a small room, downstairs, which had become a bathroom.

Do you have any stories of hauntings, or ghosts?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Witches' Ride

Webster's New World Dictionary: Witch n. 1. a woman thought to have supernatural power as by a compact with evil spirits; 2 an ugly, old shrew 3 a fascinating woman or girl

Well, well, well. You know, I've never actually looked up the word before this moment. The picture above was what I grew up with seeing and as a child was exposed to. We didn't really believe that witches could fly on a broomstick. (And then along came "Harry Potter" and blew that out of the water.)

Furthermore, justification of witchcraft on biblical texts, written originally for a religion (Jewish/ Old Testament) which had no devil. We all know there are errors throughout the Bible where translations are changed to suit what they felt they wanted to convey. Many Catholics and Protestants quoted Exodus xxii. 18, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." But the Hebrew word kaskagh (occurring 12 times in the Old Testament with various meanings) here means, as Reginald Scot pointed out in 1584 "poisoner," and certainly had nothing to do with the Christian concept of "witches". This quote and other texts which some tried to use (or did so), in order to twist the truth in order to torture and put to death hundreds of thousands of people. It turned into a 300 year holocaust in whichever nations observed "witch hunting". I hope the world will never see again, for thousands of innocent people died at the hands of very sick, disturbed people under the guise of religion.

"Europe would not have suffered, for three centuries from 1450 to 1750, the shocking nightmare, the foulest crime and deepest shame of western civilization, the blackout of everything that homo sapiens, the reasoning man, has ever upheld... The record of witchcraft is horrible and brutal: degradation stifled decency, the filthiest passions masqueraded under the cover of religion and man's intellect was subverted to condone bestialities that even Swifts' Yahoos would blush to commit." from The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft & Demonology.
Execution of  alleged witches

And then we have the other side of the coin... Homer speaks of the witch Circe as a "goddess with lovely hair... radiant...beautiful goddess singing in a lovely voice..."  Medea, the witch in the Golden Fleece adventures, is describe as a beautiful young princess. And there are more examples of "beautiful" witches. But you know, as well as I (especially when there's an election), a good smear campaign is the best way to win everyone over to your side--Yay! Of course, if you had enemies, watch out, you'd be in the stocks waiting your fate at the stake.

Burning witches was only the final destination. There were as many devised tortures invented as there were men to use them.

The word witch is derived from wicce or wicca, meaning "wise one,"  witches being both female and male.
Meaning of the word Witch is linked to "wisdom," and is the same root as "to have wit" and "to know." It comes from the Anglo-Saxon.

Also, the word "Witchcraft" has been misused for hundreds of years. Christian missionaries, encountering native peoples in other lands whose beliefs differed from their own, automatically labeled those beliefs and practices as "witchcraft." It mattered not if it were African witchcraft, Native American witchcraft, or Australian aboriginal witchcraft, none of which have any relationship to the ancient pre-Christian nature religions of western Europe. In fact Witchcraft--Wiccacraeft (craft of the wise), dates back from long before Christian times. It is an ancient Pagan religion with a belief in both male and female deities, with a reverence for nature and all life, and recognition of a need for fertility among plants, animals, and humans.

So, where do we get this "crone" who rides the broomstick idea? Probably pulling from an old religion. The Celts believed in a goddess whose form changed with the seasons. The spring maiden turned into the life-giving mother of summer and then the wizened crone of fall. At Samhain, she would climb upon the tree of life--a broomstick--and ride across the sky to the spirit realm, and there rested for the winter.

And because black cats were believed to see spirits, one was her companion.

And a Greek earth goddess Hecate was associated with night and the moon, ghosts and spirits, magic, witches and sorcery. She was known as Prytania of the Dead, or the Invincible Queen, goddess of enchantments and magical charms.
"Lost Caprichos" by Goya

Transvection or levitation
"Witches" by Hans Baldung
Witches flying on brooms may have come from older religions, and beliefs, because, well, the old ways just would not go away. They could torture, burn, drown, but people would not give up their beliefs. And it's like the more wild the story the more it will be retold and retold again, down through the generations to come.
Did women ride brooms, or certain beasts to get to their Sabbat? Who knows. Possibly this was a combination of heavy drinking and consuming funny mushrooms that had people thinking they did this, when really they didn't. They just had one hell of a party in the woods. And artists certainly loved to portray them, especially when they added an erotic element, or some of the more grisly aspects of their most deranged imaginations. Goya, the Spanish artist, had many such paintings of hags, during his "Black" period.

A number of infamous old women who were considered "old crones", who lived in appauling squalor, were apparently gifted with the art of curing sickness, making prophecies and even raising the dead. One of such was Mother Red Cap, or also called "Mother Damnable."

But funny just how seriously these ideas took hold when something called Cannon Episcopi  of the tenth century defended as heretical superstition the belief in the claims of "wicked women... who profess that in the dead of night they ride upon certain beasts with the pagan goddess Dianna, and fly over vast tracts of country." Demonologists flat out denied the possibility of transvection by saying these people were delusional.

But, this is Halloween, and, well, I wouldn't want to spoil anyone's fun. The whole idea is to have fun, isn't it? As long as we all understand it's make believe.

Next up, I'll scare up some real ghosts stories! BOO!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

He Smiles In The Dark

Would you let this guy guard your front porch, or be anywhere near your wee ones without so much as a simple background check, or list of references? I thought not.

Well, if you haven't guessed, I've turned my attention to the Jack-o'-lantern in today's blog post. 

Pumpkins were not the first vegetable to be carved and disemboweled for use as a lantern. Potatoes, turnips and rutabagas were used to carry coals from house to house. It was probably used during the fires of Samhain, on All Saints Eve, in order to carry the hot coals back to a humble hut for the hearth. Oh, there's a bunch of nice people carrying their coals now...

There are at least a dozen different variations on how, what and who began the tradition of carrying these lit faces, and why. The story of Jack (Jack-o'lantern) are as varied as the pumpkin faces you carve on this large gourd. The story is of a thief that tricks Satan into agreeing to never take his soul. But as it turned out, Jack was too sinful for heaven, and so he was also barred from Hell, and had nowhere to go. He had no light to see, and wondered how he'd find his way. The Devil mockingly gave Jack an ember from the fires of Hell, and tossed it to him. Jack carved a turnip and used it to carry the coal around. 

But it wasn't until the Irish settlers came to America and found the plumpness of the native American pumpkin was easily adapted to a perfectly carved face, and carrying coals.

Now, the lowly, gruesome-faced orange gourds have been elevated to something more than just a glowing, weird face to ward off evil. In many a village, and humble lawns, we find the art of pumpkin carving and decorating more than just something to admire. Heck, Halloween has become more on the level with Halloween costume contests. In a nearby town dressed up, painted and carved pumpkins are brought to the courthouse lawn and put into categories and earn prizes and this has been done every Halloween, along with a fare, parade and lots of vendors for at least 50 years. Anything like that around your area? I'd love to hear about it.

The only question left is...
Will you carve a friendly face?...

Or one that really makes you shiver?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Bits and pieces...

Just a few things today...

I wanted to write something else today, but I'm going to stay with my Halloween theme for the duration of the month.

That being said, here are a few places to check out.

First Penelope Crow talks about Death, here.

Oh, and Krisztina Williams has the corner on anything you need for holiday fixin's as well as fun things for party games and crafts for kids. She has a Halloween chocolate marshmallow pops tutorial right now. These look too good to pass up!

Another place to check on, even after holidays is Vintage Halloween Collector. I love the skeleton wreath, she shows you how to make (no not with real bones, silly!) here.

And another one to check on is Halloween Night. You see? I've got the goods all under one roof. You'll have to look at your own pace, of course. And @ Justine's Halloween... she had a nice delivery of some spooky goods!

I'm up to my knees in my work...

Work on #5 Sabrina Strong book is coming along. 

Oh, but meanwhile, some other ideas for Halloween spring to mind, and they are quite simple really...

Cheese cloth could make a great spook in your yard! Ooooo! It's better than a sheet because it looks tattered! (love the added skull at bottom. Very cool. (You get that I'm deranged, right?)

You could also make some tattered curtains if you really want to spook people out. Die the ends of tattered cheese cloth with tea or coffee to make them look old. Then add spiders or creepy crawlers and hang somewhere for display. That would be an easy thing to do.

Make cre-eee-py ice cubes by adding gummy worms, or such. I'll try and come up with some recipies, too.

Come on by mid-week when I talk about that orange vegetable we all like to cut up or decorate for the season as continuation on my theme for Halloween. I'll be doing these all throughout the month of October. So fly in on your broom!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Hallowe'en, A History

Hey, kids, as many of you know this is MY time of year! Yup.
We don't often think about how Halloween got started. A number of people just think people carved pumpkins and dressed up like zombies, ghosts, vampires, and the mummy, and kids go trick-or-treating begging for candy because of that cute Peanuts cartoon.
Charles Schultz' Peanuts Halloween cartoon

Many think the creation of the night is purely evil and will have nothing to do with it. 

Some think begging for candy by the little tykes is really obnoxious.

I hate miss-informed people, don't you?

This is the first installment of the history of Halloween, (mainly because I've got things to do), but don't miss any because I'm going to do these at least once or twice a week as time allows.

The word "Halloween" is a contraction of of "All Allow Even", an English way of saying the night before All Saints' Day. Sometimes it's even written Hallowe'en. They also called it "Snap Apple Night". It was a festive evening of games, dancing, and storytelling.
From what I could gather the celebrations are a mish-mash of different customs and religious celebrations.
The Celts
The Celts were the native people of the British Isles, and like most people of that time worshiped  their own solar deity. Samhain, or summer's end, was celebrated near the Roman date of October 31st. It probably coincided with the full moon, so the celebration was twofold--one of honoring the sun, thanking it for the harvest and strengthening it for its coming battle with winter. In each village, all house of fires were extinguished and everyone gathered around the sacred center altar to watch as Druid priests put out that fire as well. After a new fire was kindled on the altar, coals were carried to light fires on the hillsides in the sun's honor. More coals from the altar were used to relight household fires for protection against bad luck for the coming year.
The Celts also believed that at year's end, departing souls returned to earth to share a few moments with loved ones. Since not all the dead were nice people in life, the living huddled around those hilltop bonfires seeking shelter from the mean-spirited ghosts.

The Roman Contribution:
And then some of our Halloween customs can also be dated back to the Roman Empire's festival honoring the goddess of fruit, Pamona, and was around November 1st. 

You can see how these two festivals intermingled especially after Romans conquered Britain.

Now, let us quickly look at how the Christains contributed:

By the fourth century, when Constantine legalized (yes, legalized) Christianity in the Roman Empire, there were more martyres than there were days of the year. Because they died for their faith, they were considered saints.
You with me so far?
The whole idea of venerating all of these people on a common day caught on in many localities, but the celebrations took place in springtime. At some point "All Saints' Day" was moved to fall for two reasons. Enormous crowds thronged to Rome for the celebration, demanding food. They figured out that they could better feed so many people after the harvest. And It might have also been an attempt to counteract the influence of Druidic practices taking root throughout Christendom. (Yeah, the pagans lost this one, folks.) So, in 835 Pope Gregory IV made the date for All Saints' Day on November 1, and thus its vigil--All Hallow Even--on OCTOBER 31.

I sure hope you enjoyed this first part in my "Hallowe'en, A History". Come back next week when I get into the really scary stuff like Goblins, Ghosts, Witches. . .
and Pumpkins!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Warm your Palate and Neck!

Wow! Did we get hit with the cold weather just suddenly! Yesterday it snowed. Although it didn't stick, it came down for three hours, and the flakes were relatively small. The ground was too warm, though, for it to stick.

This morning we had our first official frost. I'd brought in some begonias that I'd dug up earlier this week--knowing the cold was only a few days away--and brought them inside. 

I'm finishing up another afghan, and it will be a good covering for the bed.

Now, for the goodies. I found this recipe for broccoli cheddar soup, which vows to be a copycat recipe of Panera's very same.
My husband is lactose intolerant, so I'm not likely to make it, unless I make it for myself. But it is my favorite when I've gone to Panera.
Okay, here it is!
  • Panera Bread Broccoli Cheddar Soup Copycat Recipe
  • Makes about 4 servings
  • 1/2 stick of butter (1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 of a medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups half and half (or 1 cup of milk and 1 cup of heavy cream)
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped small
  • 4 cups broccoli florets (about 1 head)
  • 2 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese (about 8 ounces)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Bread Bowls (Recipe Here!)
  • Cook the butter, onion, and garlic on about medium heat until tender. 
  • Slowly add the half and half and chicken stock. Mix the corn starch with a little bit of water until there are no clumps and add it to the rest. Add the nutmeg and bay leaves and cook on medium low until thickened.
  • Add the carrot and broccoli and simmer until tender. Discard the bay leaves. Add the cheese and stir until melted. Season with salt and pepper and serve in bread bowls. 

I'd likely leave out the nutmeg, but that's up to you.
Hey, as I've been back to crocheting, I've yet to do any of these cowels but they are all the rage, and you're likely to see them in stores. As for me, I'll make mine. Here's some pictures of a few.

 I really want to make both of these

I've also got to make a warm hat for my husband, and a scarf for my... well, he's done some photography for me, so, I guess you can say he's my photographer. I guess I'll be busy!
I also want to make a new pair of these fingerless gloves.
Well, that's all from me today! Hope you're staying warm, wherever you are!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Halloween Fun--Decorations and Yummy Stuff!

Frankenstein and Bride marshmallow pops
"Quit bitching, Flo! The doc just called the beautician. Said she'll be over as soon as she can and get that silly zig-zag out of your hair."

Hi, my pretties! Yes! It's that time of year again. I've got a lot to show and share with you. I just wanted to say, I've had decorations out since before the end of September. Dang, they're already putting out Christmas in stores, so, why not?

Anyway, those two above are a scream aren't they? You want to make them? Go to link here.

Got a few more. Just keep scrolling down.
Look at this spiderweb cookie! I want one! I guess you need to find a cookie cutter that's in the shape of a spiderweb.
Spiderweb cookies!
These are easy, if only you had the cookie cutter. But in any case all you do is make white frosting and black. Spread the white frosting on the cookie, fill a baggie with the black frosting, make a small hole in a corner and make a spiral on the cookie, like this...

Then, take a toothpick and start at center and draw it toward the edge. Very easy!

And if you are in the mood for cake, how about graveyard cake? Mmmm, my favorite, when I'm about to go off to scare up Dracula in his coffin.

cute and sounds like fun to make!
I've got the recipe below:
1 package Oreos
1 8 oz. cream cheese (softened)
1 c. powdered sugar
1 large container cool whip
1/2 c. butter or margarine
2 boxes white chocolate or vanilla pudding (3.3 oz. boxes)
3 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
tombstone shaped cookies 
candy corn pumpkins

1. Crush 2/3 package of oreos, and place in bottom of a 9x13 pan. Set aside.
2.Mix cream cheese and margarine until smooth. Mix in powdered sugar and fold in whipped topping. Set aside.
3. In a separate bowl mix pudding, milk and vanilla. Fold this mixture in with the cream cheese mixture.
4. Pour over crumb mixture.
5. Sprinkle with the reserve crushed  Oreos.
6. Add tombstone-shaped cookies and pumpkins to the top. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Okay, that's all for now. Hope I've inspired you into the holiday with these baked goodies!

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