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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