Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Comfort and Joy




This months homework assignment form Le Professeur Gothique is to write about comfort and joy. To talk about the things that bring you comfort especially now that the busy holiday season and cold weather is upon us.



Yup it's winter out there.

Here are just a few things that make me feel nurtured.
1. A good book (or two or three) to curl up with. Right now I'm reading Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, and the Victoria House by
Judith Flanders.


2. Journalling. I try to write everyday, and most days I succeed.
3. A warm bubble bath. At the end of a long day (especially when it's -20 out) it's so soothing.
4. Cookies I baked myself.
5. Soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. Brings me back to being a kid again.
6. Putting my iPod on shuffle. You get to hear a random selection of fabulous songs you are bound to love.
7. A comfy t-shirt.
8. A warm cup of coffee on a winter morning.



Coffeeeeee

9. My pet bunny Pippin.
10. And last, but not least Cuddling with my BF! Most comforting of all. :)

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Monday, December 12, 2011

Accent Challenge

I learnt about the accent challenge from the blogs The Everyday Goth and the Walrus Room. It was originally a Tumblr meme, but is now making it's way around some blogs. I think it's loads of fun, and so interesting to hear people's voices. Here's my post.




Here's the questions I answered and the list of words.

Your name and username.

Where you're from.

Pronounce the following words: Aunt, Roof, Route, Wash, Oil, Theater, Iron, Salmon, Caramel, Fire, Water, Sure, Data, Ruin, Crayon, New Orleans, Pecan, Both, Again, Probably, Avenue, Alabama, Lawyer, Coupon, Mayonnaise, Pajamas, Caught, Naturally, Aluminium, GIF, Doorknob, Envelope, Drawing, Tomato, Often, Dog, February, Syrup, About, Process, Status, Organization, Orange, Talk, Mobile, Idea, Dynasty, Renaissance, Patronize, Breakfast, Drawer, Horror, Herbs.

What is it called when you throw toilet paper on a house?

What is a bubbly carbonated drink called?

What do you call gym shoes?

What do you call your grandparents?

What do you call the wheeled contraption in which you carry groceries at the supermarket?

What is the thing you change the TV channel with?

Choose a book and read a passage from it.

Do you think you have an accent?

Be a wizard or a vampire?

Do you know anyone on Tumblr in real life?

End audio post by saying any THREE words you want.

I hope others participate to. It would be great to hear your voices! :)



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Friday, December 9, 2011

Figgy Pudding

I received a request for a post topic from my good friend Ms.Chloe. She asked if I could research the history of figgy pudding, find out what it is, and why are the carolers so demanding of it in the classic Christmas song "We Wish You a Merry Christmas"? I have often wondered about this myself. An excellent suggestion Ms.Chloe!
Figgy pudding is a close relative of plum pudding and the traditional Christmas pudding, and is probably just as old. The three names are sometimes used interchangeable though they are actually somewhat different. Both date back to medieval times, when it originally started as a porridge served on Christmas morning including chopped raisins, plums or figs, and suet. As time went on bread crumbs were added, then later eggs and eventually they became the puddings we know today. For American readers, please note the word "pudding" is not specific to custards in the UK, but used generally to mean "dessert".
Christmas and figgy puddings are more like a cake, though are steamed rather than baked, so are quite moist. They are a dense dessert made with chopped figs (in the case of the figgy kind) raisins and dates (in the case of Christmas pudding), flour, sugar, eggs, brandy or rum and spices. The batter is cooked in a bowl, or bundt pan, inside a larger vessel of boiling water, effectively steming the dish and cooking it very evenly. It can even be cooked weeks ahead of time, as like fruitcake it can last a long time. Both types are sometimes doused in either brandy or rum and set alight for a visual treat. There is also a lovely sweet sauce, something like an icing, that is often drizzled overtop, which I find quite lovely.
Mmm Christmas Pudding..

As for why the carolers are so demanding..I'm not sure about their rudeness, but it was a tradition from at least Medieval times for the poor to go from house to house singing at this time of year, in return for food or drink (also called wassailing). "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" is a 16th century  British West Country carol that mentions the delight of figgy pudding. While I have tried Christmas pudding (and enjoy it), I have not tried figgy pudding so it remains a mystery to me. It must be good though to have people demand it so much.

Here is a little video from Horrible Histories (love these guys) about the history of caroling.

Have you tried figgy or Christmas pudding? What are your thoughts of it?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Monthly Theme post - Outerwear

I missed the deadline for posting for Sophistique Noir's monthly fashion theme, but decided I would post my winter outerwear anyway. I apologize for not posting recently, so thought it was high time I did one.


It gets pretty cold up here in Canada during the winter so good outerwear is a must. It can get as low as -40 some days (today was a balmy -25).Here is my winter combo.




The coat is London Fog, scarf from a store in Shrewsbury, boots
I can't remember what brand (they are the BF's fave), and mittens were a gift.
Here's a close up of the mittens which I think are really cute.




I like that they are both mittens and potential puppets. Who doesn't love spontaneous puppetry?
How do you keep warm in the winter months?

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Book Review - Betrayed

I recently finished reading Betrayed, the second novel in the House of Night series by PC and Kristen Cast. The second book follows the main character Zoey Redbird, who attends the House of Night, a boarding school for fledgling vampires. In this novel, she is beginning to get used to her growing powers and adapt to her new life. It also doesn't hurt that she has been made the new leader of the Dark Daughters, a group of elite students.



Everything seems to be perfect. Her enemy Aphrodite, the former leader of the Dark Daughters has been deposed, she's enjoying her new classes, and has at least two love interests going at once.
Then things get complicated. Human teenagers, including her former schoolmates, are going missing, and her tie to her ex boyfriend Heath continues to grow. There is also the unsettling feeling there is something not quite right about the head mistress Neferet.
Like the last novel, I thought the plot had some problems. It moved at a good pace, but some scenes seemed extraneous. The characters were fairly believable, except for the protagonist. She's too perfect. She has more powers than any other fledgling her age, and has three guys chasing her. Personally I prefer my protagonists flawed. In the second book we see her powers
continue to grow. She has an affinity for not just one but all the elements (air,fire, water, earth, and spirit). She continues to play her two boyfriends to. I found her a bit annoying really. I'm not sure if I'm going to continue reading this series. Two parasols.



If you read this series, what did you think of it? Should I continue reading it?
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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Fruitcake!

This afternoon I decided to continue a family tradition and make a Christmas cake using my Mum's recipe. Otherwise known as fruitcake, the Yuletide dessert has to be made weeks ahead of time so it can age in time for Christmas. I also pour brandy on mine every few days to help it age and to fill it with festive goodness. Towards Christmas I'll then cover the cake in marzipan and royal icing to finish it off.
Hopefully it will look something like this when it's all done.



Fruitcakes date back to ancient times. Both Egyptians and Romans made a version with pomegranate, pine nuts, raisins and barley. They became a little more like the ones we now know, during medieval times, when Europeans made sweet cakes with dried fruit, honey and nuts. These cakes were even packed by crusaders on their journeys as they were dense in calories and would keep for a long time. In the 1600s with sugar becoming more abundant, candied fruits became part of the recipes, as well as alcohol, and they became the concoctions we love (or hate) today. They were apparently seen by some as excessively decadent, during the this time, with Puritans even banning them during their brief rule in England.


My fruitcake batter.

During Victorian times fruitcakes became even more popular, and were not just served at Christmas, but also for weddings, anniversaries, birthdays etc. Because the alcohol content and candied fruit preserved them very well, it was traditional for a portion of the wedding cake to be saved to be eaten on the first anniversary. Queen Victoria once waited a whole year to eat a birthday fruitcake made for her, because she thought it showed her restraint. There is even a cake said to date back to 1878 in Tecumseh Michigan that is still edible!



An Angry Birds Christmas cake!

Christmas fruitcake recipes vary by region. The kind of Christmas cake I make, is the British variety, being dark and densely packed with fruit (I don't use nuts in my recipe) with the marzipan and icing. German varieties can be light or dark and are covered in powdered sugar. Caribbean kinds are soaked in rum and feature candied pineapple. The commercial varieties are usually not iced and can be light, or dark, and filled with more or less fruit.


Wimpy fruitcake in my opinion.

Here is my naked fruitcake. I will post further pictures once it has been iced.



What are your thoughts on Christmas cake? Love it? Hate it? Make a different variety?

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Victorian Seances

I had this idea for a post a few weeks ago, as it seemed a timely subject for around Halloween, but life gets in the way sometimes. I still think the subject is still appropriate as it is getting dark early now, and there are those that believe that the time between Halloween and Christmas is when spirits are most active.
 A surprisingly popular activity during the Victorian era, was the seance. Best known as an era of both rigid morality and rationalism (it was the era of Darwin, Freud and Marx after all), there were those who reacted against this and embraced spiritualism. Spiritualism was the belief that the soul existed after death and could be contacted by the living, usually through a gifted medium. It officially started in 1848, when the Fox sisters of New York, gained popularity by conducting sessions, called seances,  in which they would supposedly contact spirits and receive communication from them through a series of tapping noises. It was not long after that others claimed they could communicate with the dead as well, and it's popularity spread throughout the US, to the UK and beyond.
 These mediums used a variety of methods to communicate with those on the other side. Not only the series of tappings and knocks the Fox sisters employed, but also other methods such as table turning, spirit photography and channeling. Table turning is an activity where the participants place their fingers lightly on a table surface, while the medium asks the spirit(s) questions. The table then moves, and floats in response to the queries. Spirit photography is the photographing of supposed ghosts, and channeling is when a medium is believed to be taken over by a spirit so they can speak through her (usually a her).
 Another method that was employed was the use of spirit boards, which first became popular as a parlour game. During World War 1 it began to be taken more seriously when Spiritualists began to use it for communicating with the beyond . The most famous type of spirit board, the Ouija board, was invented by Elijah Bond in 1890. As a side note it wasn't until the 1970s that it gianed a bad reputation when Evangelical groups claimed it could result in demonic possession.

 But back to the Victorian era. While Spiritualism may have been a reaction against rationalism and rigidity, it did attract those in high position in Victorian society. Abraham Lincoln and his wife Mary Todd Lincoln were said to be believers, even holding seances in the White House, trying to contact their deceased son. Other notable believers included author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Canadian prime minister Mackenzie King, who would contact his dead mother, his dogs, and Franklin D Roosevelt looking for advice on politics (this explains a lot about him). In fact, Spiritualism tended to attract those in the upper class and middle class, rather than those of less economic standing. Critics of the day said it was for the idle rich who had exhausted all other forms of entertainment.

 Spiritualism also tended to attract both those in the abolitionist and suffragist movements, as many converts were Quakers who believed in equality. It attracted women because it gave them a platform to speak from. They could become respected  mediums, in an era where there were few public roles for women. Some would even speak to large mixed audiences, something not common for the day. One very popular medium in the US was Cora Scott Hatch who was renowned for her mediumship skills and her beauty.She began her career at 15, and was married 4 times. Her notoriety and looks helped to gain a large audience and spread the ideas of Spiritualism.

Seances were most popular after the Civil War in the US, and during World War 1, due to many trying to contact their dead loved ones. It waned in popularity over the years as some were exposed as frauds, especially those using tappings and knocks, and other fake apparitions and movements to impress their audiences. It should be noted that while some were using stage trickery, others viewed it as a serious religion.
 I have participated in seances in the past, one involving table turning. It was conducted during a special tour of the St Boniface museum, one of the oldest buildings in Winnipeg. The building was a convent that also served as a hospital, orphanage and seniors home over the years. The table did indeed move while the medium asked questions. I can't speak for anyone else there, but I know I was not moving the table. I have used spirits boards in the past as well with good results. I try to keep both my open minded and skeptics hat on when doing this, as I am undecided on the matter.
What are your thoughts. Have you participated in a seance? Do you believe in it? Or do you think it is all a hoax?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Arm warmers and the Charleston

I meant to post this yesterday, but have had a wicked cold, with a fever and sore throat. A day late though is better than never, so here is my contribution to Victorian Kitty's monthly fashion theme - arm warmers and gloves.

I personally love gloves and arm warmers. I think they can be an inexpensive way to pull an outfit together, and add a little extra something. Last week I bought a few more, as there were some great Halloween type items out there, and most were on sale!
Here's one of the new pairs, these with a spiderweb pattern.



Below is my last minute Halloween costume. I couldn't think of anything, so I bought some devil's horns and a red boa, and voila - instant costume!



Ms.Chloe's costume was way better. She was a flapper girl, complete with the fringes, 1920s make up and hair. I think she looks fabulous! Here's a video of Ms.Chloe doing the Charleston and showing off her fab fringes.

YouTube Video

How was your Halloween?

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Steampunk photoshoot

On October 15th I joined my friend, alternative model Joan V, for a steampunk themed photo shoot. I was honored that she asked me along, as I've never done a shoot like this before. The photographer Ailisa Dyson is very talented, and not afraid to climb over things or get down on a dusty floor. Check out her excellent work Here, and Joan V's work Here.
The shoot was at an antique store located in a turn of the century building. The first floor was the main shop, but we decided to shoot on the second floor which was filled with chairs and tables. One room appeared to of been an old masons lodge, with strange paintings on the wall. We had a great time, and I was pleased with the results. My fave photos are below. :)



















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Friday, October 21, 2011

Halloween in the Victorian Era

With one of my favorite holidays fast approaching, I thought I'd write a bit about Halloween in the Victorian era. (In this present era, I am somewhat prepared with candy, but cannot decide on a costume).



Halloween has it's origins in the ancient Celtic holiday of Samhain. For the Celts the new year started on November 1, and it was believed that the night before this, was a time when the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead were the thinnest. It was a night when the spirits of the dead would wander about and one could communicate easier with them to divine the future. The holiday was celebrated with bonfires, and parades, with people dressing up as animals or wearing masks, to trick the wandering spirits. Food and a lit candle were also left on doorsteps to feed the visitors from the other side.
Later the church tried to Christianize the holiday by turning November 1 into All Saints Day and November 2 into All Souls Day. Instead of leaving food out as offerings to the dead, people were encouraged to give the food to the poor. The custom of giving out small cakes to the poor, called "soul cakes" was developed, and it is believed that this is the origin of trick or treating.


During the later half of the 19th century, many of the Victorians tried to de-emphasize the creepy or spooky aspects of Halloween and make it more cutesy, as you can see by these not scary at all costumes below.



There were still those that loved the scary side, but for most it was at time to hold parties with a harvest type theme, with parlour games and dancing. A popular game was the Halloween pudding. The host would bake a fruit cake with five objects hidden inside - a ring, a coin, a thimble, a button and a key. At 9pm the oldest person would cut the cake in silence and give out the pieces. It was believed that the first words spoken after the cake was cut would be prophetic for the year. Whoever got the piece with the ring would marry that year, the coin would be wealthy, the button meet their love, the key go on a journey, and the thimble be an old maid/bachelor.



Another game that had a few variations, was one where single women would go alone into a darkened room with a mirror and a candle. They would take an apple with them and try to peel it all in one piece, or slice the apple. It was believed your true love's face would appear in the mirror. If you were going to die that year, a skull would appear.
There was also a game where young women would go one by one into a dark room with a chest of drawers with boxes in them. They would be told that the room was haunted, and they would have to go into the room in silence and collect a box from the drawer without screaming (apparently women back then screamed easily). The box was filled with party favors for the guest. It doesn't sound scary to me, but maybe if you had a great ghost story it might be more fun.



So what are your plans for celebrating the most spooktacular holiday of the year?

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Hanzel und Gretyl show

Last night I went out with friends (and a date - which lovely, by the way) to see industrial metal act Hanzel und Gretyl, who were playing at Ozzy's in Winnipeg. I was excited to see them in such an intimate venue! Last time I saw them was when they opened for Ministry, back in 2005.



Not only was the venue smaller, but the band had less people in it than last time to. It was just the two founding members performing, Kaizer Von Loopy and Vas Kallas. Not that I minded, but I still like the sight of a full band playing. Despite the smaller scale the show was excellent! I was happy they played my fave songs by them, including SS Deathstar Supergalactic, and Fikk Dicht Mit Fire. They band seemed to be having fun to, getting people to come drink out of a boot on stage
during Das Boot.

YouTube Video

I apologize for the quality, it's not the greatest camera phone. But still, it shows boot drinking!

YouTube Video




At the end of the show, they played a disco song and people got on stage and danced! Hilarious! The band was also kind enough after the show to take photos with fans and sign autographs. It was definetly A fun night!



Me, Phoebe, and Kaizer Von Loopy.

I have to send a big shout out to the Elysium Social Club for arranging the show. It's great we have such dedicated people in our local community!


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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thanksgiving and pies!

This past weekend I went to my parent's place in the country to celebrate Thanksgiving. For those of you in the US I know your Thanksgiving isn't until the last Thursday in November, but in Canada it is celebrated the second Monday in October. This is because it is more of a general celebration of thanks for the harvest and is not connected to the landing of the Pilgrims which our friends in the States celebrate. And because our growing season is shorter (winter comes early up here my friends).



A Victorian Thanksgiving card

The first celebration of thanks held in Canada was in 1578 when the English explorer Martin Frobisher, who was looking for the Northwest passage, celebrated his safe landing. Later in the early 1600s and onwards, the French settlers celebrated autumn feasts giving thanks for the harvest, though there was no fixed date for this. It apparently was both a European and Native custom to hold these end of harvest feasts.



In the 1700s and 1800s thanksgiving feasts were held to celebrate everything from the 1763 English victory over the French in the Seven Years War, the uniting of Upper and Lower Canada in 1841 and the recovery of the Prince of Wales (who became Edward VII) from illness. Any excuse for a big meal I say!
It is also important to note that Americans also influenced Canadian Thanksgiving when many Loyalists moved to Canada after the American Revolution bringing their traditions with them.



In the early 1900s the government set the first Monday in November as Thanksgiving. With the celebration of the end of World War I, Armstice Day (later Remembrance Day) falling on November 11, many thought the two dates were too close. Thus in 1957 Canadian Thanksgiving was moved to the second Monday in October.




So above is my contribution to the Thanksgiving feast (I made two). Yes I did make the filling from scratch, though I did cheat on the pastry (thanks Pillsbury). It actually turned out pretty good! I have some extra pumpkin too, so I think I might make a loaf.
So what are your Thanksgiving/fall traditions?

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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Monthly Theme Post - Lace

Once again it's time to participate in Victorian Kitty's monthly fashion theme. Check out her blog and the other participants Here



This month the theme is lace. I must admit, I don't own a lot of lace items, but do enjoy the few I do have. I had the opportunity to get dolled up last night, so put my fave lace top on and my good friend Richel took some photos. I apologize for the cell phone picture quality. We went out last night to Nuit Blanche at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. It's an event where various galleries, museums, and cultural institutions are open all night. Basically, there's a bunch of artsy parties around the city. It's loads of fun. Plus Richel got a fab new job, and we needed to celebrate!




Top -heavy red, with corset from La Vie on Rose



Back view



Richel also me kudos on the stockings.

The evening was great fun. The place was packed and there were musical performances - DJs, a mariachi band, and activities. Plus wine food and art, how could you go wrong.



Richel and I made original artwork.



Some random people in costumes.



Me and the fabulous Miss La Muse. She's a super talented burlesque dancer and model. And an awesome person to boot. Check out her blog Here






Party on the WAG rooftop.




Mariachi Ghost - a mariachi band with a Day of the Dead theme.

All in all a great evening. Now to recovering. I'm looking forward to reading the other monthly fashion theme posts. :)


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