Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween history

As some of you know, I love the Road to Avonlea and Anne of Green Gables series. I thought maybe you'd be interested in the following article on Halloween in 19th century America.

Has anyone tried one of these superstitions about future portents? I'll have to see what our cat Bella does tonight :)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A California Halloween!

My friend in CA emailed me some pictures of her Halloween displays around her house. She used some of the Halloween items I have sent her over the years including some of my cross stitch designs!!

I hope she doesn't mind that I'm sharing her photos with you guys! I love her Halloween displays. Very festive and perfect for Halloween.

I want one of those Reese's peanut butter cups!

Until next time ^____^

A bowl of candy

Merry Halloween

Have a fun and safe Halloween!

Halloween Fudge

In addition to the harvest cookies for tomorrow, I also made Halloween fudge. I found a recipe that uses chocolate chips, sweetened evaporated milk, white candy coating, orange extract and orange food paste coloring.

I wish the photos showed the color of the orange layer more as it is a light pumpkin orange color.

For the bottom layer, you melt the chocolate chips and the sweetened evaporated milk together and let it chill for 10 minutes. While that is chilling, you melt the white candy coating with the remaining evaporated milk and add the orange extract and orange food paste coloring.

I tried some of the fudge and there is a small hint of orange in the fudge. I almost think it needs just a little bit more orange extract to make the flavor stronger.

If found some metallic orange and black candy cups at Hobby Lobby on sale in their Halloween section. They were perfect to display the fudge in single servings for everyone :)

Until next time ^___^

Harvest Cookies

Since tomorrow is Halloween I decided to bake cookies for my associates at work. This is the first time that I have tried to make harvest cookies and I had a lot of trouble with the recipe in terms of baking time and what amount to form into balls for baking.

The recipe called for 350 degrees and in the south that means automatically 25 degrees less. Baking time 8 to 10 minutes until the edges are golden color. I put them in for 9 minutes as a test batch, but they were still not golden. I ended up putting them in at 13 minutes to bake.

The other issue was the size to roll the dough balls. The recipe said either a small ice cream scoop or a teaspoon....................yes, I said a TEASPOON!

If you look in one of the pictures at the top of the post you will see my test batch of teaspoon sized balls of dough. O_o"

I shaped the dough using a cookie dropper, but didn't like how the cookies came out looking like drop cookies. I remembered that my aunt told me that I could use a small cup bottom dipped in flour to flattened the dough before baking. Viola! perfect cookies!

I'm sure my coworkers will have something to talk about with these cookies in their various shapes and sizes!

Until next time ^____^

Cat's paw (Not what you think!)

Good afternoon! It's been a productive weekend. My sister and I were doing yard work early yesterday morning. I mowed the yard and pulled up weeds while my sister used the week whacker to trim around the flowerbed edges, etc.

We decided to attack a large cat's paw vine that was growing like crazy in one of our larger azalea bushes on the side of the house.

Behold my victory scar!

Cat's paw isn't friendly at all because of their large thorns. The vines grow upwards and attach themselves to other trees and bushes. I've seen them grow upwards into tall oak trees and pine trees before.

I hadn't noticed that the scratch was that bad above my wrist until later in the day. I was telling my sister that I look like one of Burton's dolls! Well, at least it doesn't hurt; it's just very unsightly.

Until next time ^____^

Friday, October 28, 2011

Handmade Brooches

Finally! I got Blogger to upload some images of my new brooches. Three things I love are Halloween, the fall season, and anything cameo, and what did I have in my package, but a fall themed brooch, a Halloween brooch, and a cameo brooch! Woohoo ^__^

This one is quite a neat idea. It actually comes from a seed bead ring pattern, but my friend tweaked it a bit to make a brooch. It is called 'Going Batty'. In the middle of the circular shape is a tiny red bell. How fun!

I saw this brooch on my friend's blog a while ago, but I really didn't think it was meant for me! Don't you just love the colors in it? It is definitely something I could wear almost any time of the year.

I might be bias in favor of this one only because I ADORE cameos! My friend said that the cameo was actually a pendant, but I love how she used it as a centerpiece for a pin. I love the chain that dangles around the cameo. The color works well with the cameo and how can you not like those tiny stars!

Thank you my dear friend! Let me revise my statement by saying that I LOVE all the brooches. I have very few fall or Halloween brooches in my collection so your handmade gifts help to fill out my selection! And the cameo ~ no words needed just a BIG "squeal" of joy >___<

Until next time ^____^

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Halloween Goodies!

Hi, everyone! I came home today to find a package waiting for me from my friend in CA. She said that I needed practical gifts this year instead of the usual candy and decorations :)

Here's the contents:

She got me a Halloween kitchen set that has a oven mitt, kitchen towel, and pot holder decorated with pumpkins. Two sets of cookie cutters, one for Halloween and the other for Thanksgiving.

She also made me three brooches to add to my collection >__<

For some reason, I can't upload the photos after that first one. Silly Blogger! So I will have to wait until later to give you a closer look at the brooches that she made me :P

Thank you for all the lovely gifts my friend! I can't wait to wear the brooches and bake some cookies in the future!

I'm off to cut out some paper lantern bags for Halloween.

Until next time ^____^

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Halloween Cats

Design: Halloween Cats by Kreinik
Fabric: 28ct tea Monaco linen by Charles Craft
Threads: DMC substitutes 310, 722, 762, 834, 839, 840, and 3778
Start/Finish: 10/25/2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

Halloween Goodies

Hi, everyone! The package I sent to CA was received today! Talk about fast shipping. I mailed it out on Saturday and was thinking it would at least be sometime in the middle of the week before it was delivered O_o"

Usually my packages are a lot larger than this one, but I didn't really see anything so cute that I had to include it in my packages this year. My dear friend Amanda is making an awesome effort at being healthy by eating well and exercising. With that in mind, I decided I wasn't going to overload her package with a lot of candy. I was at Wal-greens when I saw the funniest Halloween 'sushi' gummy set in their candy section. If I was going to get one thing for her package that was sugary sweet, it was going to be the sushi set. I knew she'd get the crazy humor of it all!

Here's what I sent her:

1. Ghost mug
2. I Heart Vampires notepad
3. Ghost pumpkin Ty beanie baby
4. Blameless novel by Gail Carriger
5. Just Cross Stitch Christmas ornament issue
6. Just Cross Stitch Halloween ornament issue

I used a cute black container to hold the notepad and the beanie baby. I got it last year from Hobby Lobby after the holiday was over.

And finally, I can't send a package without a lovely card included. I absolutely LOVE the stationery cards that Papyrus comes out with. Whenever I see that Target has switched to a new holiday in the card section I immediately go over and browse for a while, reading the cards and agonizing in my geeky way over which cards to get. I couldn't resist the glitter die-cut pumpkin card this year!

I'm glad you liked everything my friend!

Until next time ^____^

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A witch's broom

Design: Happy Broom Broom by Stitches N Stones
Fabric: 28ct glass blue Monaco linen
Threads: DMC 164, 310, 738, 740, 782, and 972
Start/Finish: 10/22-23/2011

I started this design last night using a scrap of glass blue linen. The design actually calls for hand-dyed threads so I used DMC colors from the Witchy Kitty design instead. I was hoping that this design would work with one of the pillow kits that I have in my stash, but the pillow is a light purple with stars and doesn't really go well with the colors I chose in the threads and linen. I'll have to put it in my 'to finish' stack and see if I run across another pillow kit with a good color for it in the future.

I'm off to do some more laundry (never seems to end).

Until next time ^___^

Saturday, October 22, 2011


This morning I got up early to run some errands. I had to go by the post office to mail off two Halloween packages. One to my friend Amanda (Crystal Panda blog) in sunny California and the other to my friend Constance in New Zealand. I always wonder if there is a cheaper to ship internationally, but I don't think so, which is a pity.

After that I ran by storage to liberate our Halloween decorations from their yearly exile. I plan on going by storage on the weekend after Halloween to get the Christmas items out of exile. No, I won't be displaying them early, but at least I'll have them on hand to decorate after Thanksgiving instead of procrastinating about it :)

I was driving back home when I decided to stop by my local BAM bookstore to browse the shelves and see what's new in the magazine section.

Of course, I never seem to be able to leave the store without purchasing something even if it's just a mocha frappuccino!

I came away with the newest issues of Discover Britain (formerly known as Realm), The English Home, a craft book on Alice in Wonderland called Everything Alice, and a fairy tale fantasy novel called The Stepsister Scheme.

I can't even begin to tell you where I saw Everything Alice. I think it was in the UK craft magazine Mollie Makes and I was hoping a company in the US would publish it so I wouldn't have to order it from I saw the book The Stepsister Scheme recommended on a wonderful blog that I read called Fairy Layers. Her blog is full of fun posts on fairy tale adaptations in modern culture, whether it be film or literature. The only bad thing is that I always want to read what she's written about and my local library branches never seem to have the titles she recommends! (sigh)

This afternoon I went with my mother across the bay to the Eastern Shore Center. I bought a cupcake stencil kit at Williams-Sonoma and some more book goodies at Barnes and Noble. I can't tell you how much I miss having a Barnes and Noble store in Mobile. I like BAM, but it just doesn't have the same selection or feel as BN.

I bought the newest issue of Homestyle Sewing and Mollie Makes. (I really need to get a subscription to the latter magazine as it always has great ideas and lovely freebies!) I also got the second book in the Vampire Empire series.

Well, I'm off to get some sort of laundry accomplished today!

Until next time ^____^

Autumn and Halloween Display *updated*

Hi, everyone! I ran by storage this morning (with the right keys!) to get out the rest of the Halloween decorations. I took a picture of my autumn/Halloween display now that it has more items added to it.

I can't wait for Halloween! I've got to buy candy this weekend. I always buy the good stuff, but I also go to the Dollar Store and buy the older candies. You know the ones that no one likes, but somehow always find their way into a child's Halloween bag every year! Mwahahahaha~

Until next time ^____^

Friday, October 21, 2011

Master of them all!

Another work week gone and some paper folded! In honor of the holiday coming up, my co-worker and I made origami pumpkins this week. I can't claim credit for the bat as the creation was my co-worker's ^___^

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Stitching plans

I've updated my Christmas stitching list from last year. I had thirty patterns on the list at the time and stitched twelve designs from it. This year I have twenty-eight patterns on the list. I've added a lot of new patterns from the JSC 2011 magazine and from my freebie binder.

I can't wait to start on some of the patterns, but first I think I can get one or two more autumn and Halloween patterns stitched before November starts >___<

Until next time ^____^

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Victorian Light

Design: Lamppost Ornament by JSC 1992
Fabric: 28ct glass blue Monaco linen
Threads: DMC 310, 317, 321, 367, 415, 498, 727, 890, 973, and 976
Start/Finish: 10/19/2011

Another ornament from the 1992 Christmas issue of Just Cross Stitch. I love this design. For some reason it reminds me of Dicken's London.

Until next time ^____^

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Design: Blue China Ornament by JSC 1992
Fabric: 32ct cream Belfast Zweigart
Threads: DMC 341, 792, 793, 820, and 823
Start/Finish: 10/18/2011

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Blue Willow

Design: Blue China Ornament by JSC 1992
Fabric: 32ct cream Belfast Zweigart
Threads: DMC 796, 797, 800, and 823
Start/Finish: 10/16/2011

I found a lovely series of Blue China ornament patterns in an older edition of Just Cross Stitch magazine from 1992. I stitched one of them this afternoon while watching the 1986 version of The Little Princess on DVD.

The design actually has a border around it that mimics the pattern of old blue willow dishes, but I opted to just stitch the design in the middle.

I'll have to think of something else to stitch tomorrow :)

Until next time ^_____^

Endless Love

As some of you know, I’m a Korean drama fan. One of my friends got me into them several years ago and I’ve been watching them ever since. I also watch the lighter dramas from Japan and Taiwan when I get together with my friends as the majority of them like the lighter and sillier aspects of those dramas.

Out of all the dramas I’ve watched, my favorite is the Endless Love series directed by Yoon Seok-Ho. The series comprises four separate dramas named after the seasons that run between 16-20 episodes each:

Autumn in My Heart, released in 2000
Winter Sonata, released in 2002
Summer Scent, released in 2003
Spring Waltz, released in 2006

Only two of the series have been officially released in the US, Winter Sonata and Spring Waltz. The other two series can still be purchased from other companies that sell NSTC versions, but the subtitle quality isn’t the best.

With my Korean dramas, I usually wait until they go on sale for around $40 or less since they usually sell for around $60 or more depending on the length of the DVD set.

I had been looking for a copy of Winter Sonata for a while after seeing it mentioned in Shojo Beat as one of the ‘classics’ of Korean drama that made that genre of film popular outside Korea. I was so glad when I found a copy. Winter Sonata has been out of print for a while and luckily I found a set online from a video store in Seattle. It turned out to be one of my favorites in the Endless Love series.

During my vacation in CA this year, I found Autumn in My Heart and Summer Scent at an Asian shop that specialized in CDs, DVDs, and various cute stationery, gadgets, etc. I bought a copy of Spring Waltz on Amazon when it went on sale just recently.

Having finished watching the entire run of the Endless Love series, I can only describe it in the following words:

Autumn in My Heart is a tantalizing appetizer followed by the heartwarming main courses of Winter Sonata and Summer Scent with Spring Waltz as an exquisite dessert.’

My favorites in the series are Winter Sonata, Spring Waltz, and Summer Scent. For some reason, I couldn’t get into the story in Autumn in My Heart. The characters lacked a quality that would have connected the audience to the story. I will give the series its due as an example of the earlier Korean drama genre of tragedy over happy endings with the death of both lead characters. As the director progresses through each series, the stories follow the current trend of happier endings.

I think it’s a tossup between Winter Sonata and Spring Waltz as my favorites. I could definitely watch either of them again if I was in the mood to. I must admit that I am smitten with the story of Spring Waltz, not to mention its gorgeous soundtrack and opening and ending scenes filmed in Austria.

Now would I recommend any of these series to someone who was interested in watching Korean dramas? I’m afraid not as I know my taste is for the darker dramas which progress into a happy ending. I would, however, recommend My Lovely Sam-Soon or My Love Patzzi as dramas for a beginner into the world of Korean dramas. My Lovely Sam-Soon is like a Korean version of Bridget Jones and My Love Patzzi, if you've watched alot of Asian dramas in general, is a parody of the genre >__<

What's next on my schedule? My friends are currently watching I Really, Really Like You when we get together.

I'm off to see if I can find CDs for the Endless Love series! And maybe to look through my stash of patterns for something to stitch :)

Until next time ^_____^

Autumn and Halloween display

This morning I went by Target to do some grocery shopping and came away with a few items for my autumn and Halloween display. I found a cute rectangular metal basket and small orange table scatter pumpkins in their dollar section.

I have several of my smaller autumn and Halloween cross stitch pillows on the left in the metal basket, two of my larger cross stitch pillows in the middle, and an autumn bowl with the scatter pumpkins and a ceramic witch kitty on the right. I had bought the autumn bowl several years ago and the ceramic kitty at Hobby Lobby this year ^____^

I have other items for Halloween, but they are in storage and I had the wrong key when I went to get them out this weekend! I will have to try for next weekend >__<

Close-up of pillows in basket

Close-up of larger pillows

I couldn't get a good photo of the bowl and the kitty as the flash on my camera kept going off! And it really doesn't help when your living room is done in wood paneling from the 70s! It makes everything darker than usual even with lighting.

I hope you are having fun getting ready for Halloween. Maybe enjoying some lovely fall weather as well!

Until next time ^____^

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Weekend plans

Well, this morning I ran some errands around the town. I was in a mad search for a foam cube to finish my Witchy Kitty into a decoration for Halloween. Even though I searched Hobby Lobby, Michael's, and Joann's Fabrics in town, I couldn't find the size cube that I needed. How disappointing!

So much for that having a fun activity for the weekend! I guess I will have to put my Witchy Kitty design into my 'to finish' pile for the future. I'll have to keep checking periodically at the craft stores from now on to see if they get the size I need in stock.

In others, I saw some great baking goodies at the craft stores and I really need to make an effort to go by those stores after Halloween and see if I can get some of them on sale. Joann's Fabrics had a really cute linzer cookie cutter in the shapes of bats and cats and Martha Stewart had some great cookie stencils for the holiday!

I also went by Sukoshicon for a little while this morning. I didn’t stay that long as they didn’t have a lot of activities that I was interested in. Their dealers’ room was horrible for the size of the venue that they chose this year to host the event.

I saw some great tables on the artist’s alley with cute Japanese themed pillows and cushions and an amazing display of Lolita hats! I was so tempted to purchase one of them that was British themed in red, white, and blue with a feather and British flag adorning it, but I didn’t have any cash on me and I wouldn’t have had a place to wear it anyway :*(

At least, I got some inspiration for items I can make in the future!

Until next time ^____^

Oriental Fairy Tales

I had finished reading Oriental Fairy Tales earlier this week and since then have been researching (or at least attempting to) various aspects of the book.

The copy I possess is the Arlington Edition of Oriental Fairy Tales by Hurst & Co. in New York. There is no copyright date, but it does have a signature in the front and a date of 1893 so I can safely say that the date is circa 1893.

While researching the German translators Herder, Liebeskind, and Krummacher, I came across something interesting, the book has been published three times previously to this edition.

It was published in 1858-59 by Stanford and Delisser as Oriental Tales of Fairyland with illustrations by R.S. Bross. Again in 1861 and 1868 by James Miller as The Magic Ring, and other Oriental Fairy Tales. And then again around 1893 by Hurst & Co. as Oriental Fairy Tales, Arlington Edition.

The only differences between the first publication in 1858-59 and the other editions is the exclusion of the translator’s note at the beginning of the book and the addition of four chapters to the other editions, The Journey, El Rakham, The King and the Goatherd, and The Fairy Barque along with an addition of an introduction by Oberon and Titania. Otherwise the editions are also identical in title layout and most certainly in the end notes, which have been copied word for word from the 1858-59 edition.

I could not find an illustration example for the 1861 or 1868 editions, but I presume all the illustrators would have been different in each edition to give an incentive for a customer to purchase the book. There is no notation of who illustrated the etchings for the 1893 edition, but they range in quality from that of the lovely frontispiece to smaller ones that are hastily executed.

I researched each of the publishers of the books through the various years. I found evidence of the first edition in 1858-59 and those in 1861 and 1868, but I could find little to nothing on the edition from 1893.

Usually when you research The Magic Ring edition you come up with the 1861 edition, but I ran across something in another book that made me realize that they might have been another edition in 1868. I found a copy of The American Boy’s Life of Washington by Mrs. Anna M. Hyde that was published by James Miller in 1868, which had an advertisement for The Magic Ring book.

“The Magic Ring, and other Oriental Fairy Tales, Illustrated – The same simplicity of style and elegance of language, which have rendered the ‘Arabian Nights’ so justly popular, will be found in the above book, which the Publisher now offers, and which will, he is confident, when better known, take rank amongst our most Popular Juvenile Literature.”

With that in mind, it makes me wonder if the 1861 version did not sell particularly well at all and the publisher felt that people might be more inclined to pick up the book again in 1868 with the interest in the Arabian Nights stories (which were published in English for the first time one hundred and sixty-two years earlier in 1706).

Another misnomer is the title ‘Oriental Fairy Tales’ as it takes on an entirely different meaning for readers in the 21st century. Whereas we consider ‘Oriental’ to mean any East Asian country, in the case of these editions from the 19th century, it is used to refer to any country in the East.

Throughout history, the countries of England and Europe were influenced by the East whether it was through commerce, conquest, or the exposure to other styles of art and architecture in those countries through travel. The Renaissance saw an embrace of various cultures through contact with the Islamic world and the Ottoman Empire. Exposure to these Eastern countries would continue from the Renaissance into the 19th century with influences in style throughout the period such as Turquerie, Chinoiserie, and Japonisme (the latter two styles became extremely popular in the 19th century due to ‘opening’ of those countries to trade).

The term ‘Orientalism’ was used in the 19th century to describe the style of art that depicted the Middle East and North African cultures. Writers of the period, such as Lord Byron, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Victor Hugo, Gustave Flaubert, Emerson, and Poe, were not immune to the influence of the Oriental and dabbled during the period with stories of the East. ‘Orientalism’ was not used to describe writers who wrote of the East as many wrote a range of stories throughout their careers that did not center on that theme.

While researching some of the titles of the stories, I came across a few of them in magazines of the mid-19th century, namely the tales of ‘The Dream of Almet’ and ‘The Vision of Bossaldab’ in American publication, The National Magazine in 1852 and Sharpe’s London Magazine of Entertainment and Instruction for General Reading in 1846.

The stories within the book are not necessarily fairy tales as we would term them today; most of the stories include magical elements, but only a few with actual fairies. In these stories, the magical element to the stories is usually the appearance of a guardian or spirit from the Heavens who is sent as a messenger to address a grievance and show why a misfortune has happened.

One of my favorite stories in the collection is 'El Rakham or the Marriage Collar.' It tells the story of Aboulhassan, an evil sorcerer who was known for changing shape into various creatures, most often a large vulture, whereas he became known as ‘El Rakham’ by the villagers near his castle. He becomes enchanted with two sisters from the nearby village, Habbemah and Nefesa. He decides to make the younger sister his wife and concocts a plan to capture Nefesa and bring her to his castle. He eventually carries her off to his castle as a vulture and when she awakes, gives her a choice. If he can win her heart in a week they will be married, but if for any reason she doesn’t agree, she can stab him in the heart and flee. Of course, there is a catch; he cannot die unless struck in a secret place on his body which he guards carefully. He showers Nefesa with jewels, dresses, and other riches and makes himself agreeable to her family with the same gifts and promises.

At the end of the week, Nefesa decides to marry the sorcerer and during the marriage ceremony, he gives her a beautiful filigree collar of gold. He puts one collar on himself and the other on his wife and tells her that the collars are magical and that if one of them dies, then the other will die at the same time as well. Like any sensible person, Nefesa is alarmed by this prospect, but eventually forgets about the sorcerer’s warning.

Their marriage does not remain blissful, the sorcerer becomes increasingly cruel to his wife. After a failed attempt by her cousin to kill the sorcerer, Nefesa tells her remaining cousin how to kill her husband the next time she visits her family. He comes to challenge the sorcerer and beheads him in a duel. Throwing the sorcerer’s head in a river, he then stabs the sorcerer in the base of his spine and he dies. At the same time, Nefesa is killed by the marriage collar around her neck.

Though this tale does not have a lot of similarities to Perrault’s Bluebeard, I was reminded of that tale while reading El Rakham. Some of the similarities are the choice of two sisters, the beheading of the husband by a member of the wife’s family, and the curiosity of the wife that almost leads to her death (in the case of El Rahkam, the wife is ultimately killed from the sin of treachery).

Overall, I found this collection of stories to be an interesting insight into Arabian literature. My only regret is the fact that many of the origins of the stories were not mentioned by the translators. The notes at the end of the book were mostly definitions of terms such as religious holidays and those used for rulers and holy men. I know there are research materials on Arabian folklore and fairy tales in academia, but unfortunately my local universities do not have those materials as that type of literature is rarely taught in the English departments. What I wouldn’t give for a good university nearby that had a stellar folklore/fairy tale section!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Narrative of John Smith

Written between 1883 and 1884, The Narrative of John Smith, was suppose to be Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s first full-length novel. Up to this point in his life, at the age of 23, his literary aspirations were confined to short stories that he wrote as a student in university as a way to supplement his earnings. Having started his own medical practice in Southsea after graduation, he was hard-pressed to find eager patients as he was new to the city and knew hardly of its residents. In addition to everyday living expenses and those of his practice, his father was failing in health due to age and a long battle with alcoholism and was admitted to a health resort as a possible way to alleviate his illnesses. The family’s finances were strained despite the earnings sent home by his sisters who were governesses in Portugal. Doyle continued his writings as a means to supplement his earnings and as extra money for his mother to help with their finances.

Having finished his manuscript on John Smith, it was sent off to London to his publishers only to be lost in the mail. Doyle decided to rewrite the story from memory afterwards, but left it unfinished and unpublished until now by the British Library with support from the Estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

I received my copy of The Narrative of John Smith yesterday in the mail and spent the afternoon reading it. I found Doyle’s story while incomplete to be a delightful treat. A 50 year old bachelor named John Smith is given orders by his doctor to stay at home for a week in order to cooperate from an inflammation of gout. His doctor suggests that he read or perhaps take up writing as a means to pass the time while indoors.

The book contains only a small amount of actual dialogue between John Smith and his fellow neighbors and doctor with the majority of the text being the thoughts of Mr. Smith on a variety of subjects ranging from books, science, politics, war, religion, and predictions for the future of the world.

Despite the multitude of his own personal opinions, you still have an insight into the people that make up a small part of Mr. Smith’s world. Those that make up his surrounding life as a lodger are the kind-hearted Mrs. Rundle, a widow with three young children who is his landlady, Herr Johann Lehmann, a professor of music who is constantly playing on his piano or violin at all hours of the day, and an old Army officer who is always ready for any sign of war with a packed trunk of clothes and supplies.

What we know of Mr. Smith is that he is a 50 year old bachelor who has been around the world on various ventures in Australia, the Artic, and elsewhere. “A wandering life is apt to take the finer edge off a man’s soul. – As a boy in college, as a student in Edinburgh, as a literary man in London, as a solider in America, as a traveler in many lands, as a diamond digger at the Cape.”

Some of my favorite parts of the novel are those concerning literature of the day. Mr. Smith felt that the best type of literature was an author’s short stories as they were the ‘real flavor’ of an author. He also felt that the flowery language in most novels was ridiculous and that if he put the authors of those novels in a room and had people act out the scenes, they would be embarrassed by inventing such dialogues.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the novel regarding books and literature:

“There should be a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Books. I hate to see the poor patient things knocked about and disfigured.” – Mr. Smith goes on to write that if such a bill should pass than people could be arrested for disfiguring books, be it pencil marks, dog ears, or fingerprints.

“If the secret history of literature could be written, the blighted hopes, the heart-sickening disappointments, the weary waiting, the wasted labour, it would be the saddest record ever written.”

“You have but to light your reading lamp and beckon to any one of the world’s great storytellers, and the dead man will come forth and prattle to you by the hour. That reading lamp is the real Aladdin’s wonder for summoning the genii with. Indeed, the dead are such good company that one is apt to think too little of the living.”

“It is as impertinent as it is inartistic of a novelist to wander away from his story in order to give us his own opinions on this or that subject. George Eliot, Victor Hugo, Thackeray, and Ouida are all somewhat addicted to it.”

“Morals in a novel are as much out of place as physic in a champagne bottle.”

While the novel is fictional in part, it shows a lot of the opinions of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle at the age of 23 as a medical man, a writer, and as a subject of the British Empire and also shows some interesting foresights into the future.

Mr. Smith speaks of the Education Act of 1870 that granted universal education to any subject of the Empire from the ages 5 to 12 if fees were paid. His opinions of universal education are an interesting insight into the relationship between education and the job market in the 19th century and especially now in the 21st century. Here are Mr. Smith’s thoughts on the Education Act:

“Competition is keen enough now heaven knows in every art and profession.” Once educated, people “are not going to devote their lives to clipping hedges and digging drains. Ambition will lead them to crowd into what is already overcrowded with, I fear, disastrous results. The educated workman is excellent in theory but too often the workman ceases when the education begins.”

That last sentence is particularly telling for our society today. We have grown up being told that a college education is paramount to a greater future and a decent wage and living. Now we are at the point where they aren’t enough white collar jobs to go around and graduates have a mountain of debt to contend with while those jobs in the blue collar sector are being snubbed and thought of as menial work.

Another interesting insight into the future of the world is Mr. Smith’s opinions on which nations will be at the forefront by the 24th century. In order by importance and power: China, United States, England, and Russia.

In addition to all the opinions and insights, there is evidence of foreshadowing for future novels’ character personalities such as those of Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes. John Smith shows the kindness of Dr. Watson in his interactions with his fellow tenants and friends and the detective skills of Sherlock Holmes with his observations of a neighbor of his that lives across the way. The humor of The Lost World can be found in his amusing thoughts of an imaginary professor of archaeology named Dr. Dryasdust who theorizes on the use of gas pipes in the future while the science fiction of that novel can be found in his thoughts on what can be achieved in the future by technology.

I think scholars and fans of Doyle’s writings will find this book to be a great insight into Doyle as a man and author. Wouldn't it be amazing if someone had the original copy of the manuscript that had been lost in the mail all those years ago? (sigh) A Doyle fan can only dream!

Until next time ^____^

Saturday, October 8, 2011


Look what I got in the mail today!

A copy of the Arlington Edition of Oriental Fairy Tales, translated from the German version by Herder, Liebeskind, and Krummacher. It was published by Hurst & Company in New York circa 1893.

And I received this book from Amazon:

If I'm remembering the newspaper article about this book, Doyle had written short stories for various literary magazines anonymously until he decided to write his first novel in 1883/1884. Having finished writting The Narrative of John Smith, Doyle sent it off to his publishers and unfortunately, it was lost in the mail. Doyle had to re-write the story from memory. With all that trouble, Doyle decided not to publish the manuscript and went on to write the Sherlock Holmes novels and stories.

The British Library decided to publish the work just recently and it was released a few days ago. I can't wait to snuggle in a cozy blanket and read these books. I'll have to put Varney on hold for a bit :)

Until next time ^____^


Bunny boxes

Turtles and frog

Tiger lilies

Tiger lilies gathered in the bunny boxes

My co-worker and I have been doing origami on our breaks at work. He has been doing origami since he was a kid. I knew a few origami patterns, but it's been quite a while since I've done any. It was fun to fold these on our breaks. We have been using up my stash of origami paper that I've bought or been given by my friend over the years :)

The turtles, boxes, and one of the tiger lilies are my creations. Not stellar quality, I grant you, but it was a relaxing way to spend a couple of breaks in the work week.

Until next time ^_____^

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fire burn and caldron bubble

Design: Witchy Kitty by Brittercup Designs
Fabric: 28ct tea Monaco linen by Charles Craft
Threads: DMC 164, 310, 535, 731, 740, 972, and 3746
Start/Finish: 10/2-5/2011

Thank you for the comments on my progress! I was able to finish the design this evening while watching part of The Lion King since it came out today on DVD :)

The pattern came out a bit bigger than what I figured. I think possibly from the type of linen/evenweave I used. I changed some of the colors in the design only because I didn't have some of the recommended DMC threads in my stash. You can't tell from the photo, but the liquid in the cauldron is a sea-form color. I also changed the design by filling the cauldron completely with the liquid color unlike the half-full cauldron in the original design.

I'm not sure how to 'finish' this design. If I don't think of something, it will go in my stitched patterns pile for the future >___<

Until next time ^_____^

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Halloween kitty

Design: Witchy Kitty by Brittercup Designs
Fabric: 28ct tea Monaco linen by Charles Craft
Threads: DMC 164, 310, 535, 740, 972, and 3746
Start: 10/2/2011

A small start this afternoon while waiting for laundry to dry and watching Halloweentown I and II that I received from a friend a couple of years ago :) I need to break out my copy of Hocus Pocus to watch as well >___< What can I say? I'm a Halloween geek :)

Maybe I'll be able to finish it tomorrow. It's a fun stitch with the cute little kitty.

Until next time ^____^


About a month ago, I was waiting for The Book Nook to open. It is located in Spring Hill College's Burke Library on the ground floor. While waiting I decided to browse the library's periodical section. I came across a magazine called Cineaste, which drew my attention because of an article on a new film adaptation of Sleeping Beauty. The film was being produced by Catherine Breillat, a French filmmaker and writer. The article went on to say that she had also produced another one of Charles Perrault's tales into a film, La Barbe bleue or Bluebeard.

When I got home, I looked up the Sleeping Beauty film and realized that it wouldn't be released until November of this year. Bluebeard however was already on DVD. It can go anywhere from $20-$30 depending on where you buy it. Luckily, I found a copy on eBay for $14.

My copy came in the mail yesterday and I watched it after finishing The Secret of Moonacre. The film stars Dominique Thomas as Bluebeard, Lola Creton as Marie-Catherine, Daphne Baiwir as Marie-Catherine's sister Anne, Marilou Lopes-Benites as Catherine in the 1950s, and Lola Giovannetti as Marie-Anne in the 1950s.

The story starts in the 1600s with Marie-Catherine and Anne at a private college at a nunnery. They learn from the Mother Superior that their father has died while trying to save a child from being hit from a carriage. He has left the family in debt, which means that they can no longer stay at the college.

The girls arrive home to attend their father's funeral. Afterwards, debt collectors come and take away a good portion of the household furniture as collateral for their father's unpaid debts.

1950s, Catherine and Marie-Anne

In 1950s France, two sisters are reading the story of Bluebeard in a copy of Charles Perrault's fairy tales. Like the original tale where the young wife is told not to enter a forbidden room in the castle, the two girls have been told by their mother not to enter the room where they are reading the storybook.

The film switches between both time periods throughout the story. It ends with the death of Marie-Anne in the 1950s and with Marie-Catherine sitting at a table with her husband's head on a platter in the 1600s.

The story of Bluebeard has only been adapted to film maybe a handful of times with the earliest example in 1902. I found Breillat’s adaptation to be hauntingly beautiful. I particularly liked the scenes of Bluebeard and his wife spending time together as they are not in the original fairy tale. You can feel the connection between the two characters and it definitely makes the betrayal of the key even more poignant in the film.

Marie-Catherine and Bluebeard watching an eclipse

While I found the film to be a great adaptation of the film, I felt that the young girls reading the story in the 1950s to be unnecessary. Yes, the writer illustrated the moral of the story in both time periods, but I think the original fairy tale could have stood on its own as it was filmed quite well.

My other complaint about the film was the costume design. The costumes seemed to be quite bland in parts with very little character to them and in some cases historically inaccurate for the time period. As a wife to a lord with an extensive estate and a large amount of wealth, I was expecting the costumes to be elaborate in keeping with the style of the time. But to be fair, if you take into account Breillat’s style in this film, the interaction between the characters is the driving force behind the story.

I have one warning to readers of my blog about this film if you decide to watch it. There is a scene in the film where Marie-Catherine is watching a servant kill a goose for a party that Bluebeard is hosting to find a bride. It is quite graphic and while it is an interesting way to foreshadow the end of the film, you might want to hit the ‘fast forward’ button at that point of the film.

Otherwise, I definitely recommend this film for fairy tale, period drama, or French film enthusiasts. I look forward to seeing Breillat's version of Sleeping Beauty in November.

Until next time ^____^

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Secret of Moonacre

This film is based on a book called The Little White Horse by a British author named Elizabeth de Beauchamp Goudge (1900-1984). I had ran across a blog post about the book a while ago and was hoping that one of the local library branches might have it in their collections. I was disappointed to find that they did not have it despite having a couple of other titles by the author.

The book was written in 1946 and received the Carnegie Medal for children's literature that same year. The book is set in Victorian England in the year 1842 and follows the adventures of Maria Merryweather, an orphan who goes to live with her cousin Sir Benjamin Merryweather at Moonacre Manor after the death of her father.

While many people in the U.S. favored the book Green Dolphin Country, which was the basis of the 1947 film, Green Dolphin Street, the author's favorite book was The Little White Horse. The book was adapted once on television in 1994 as a mini-series called Moonacre and then again in 2009 as the film, The Secret of Moonacre.

I was searching my local library's collection online this week when I remembered to search for The Secret of Moonacre. I was so glad when I saw that they had this film in their collection and immediately put it on hold. I was up this morning bright and early to wander over to library to browse the stacks and pick up my hold.

After watching it this afternoon, I must say that I quite enjoyed it. The film stars Dakota Blue Richards as Maria Merryweather, Juliet Stevenson as Miss Heliotrope (Maria's governess), Ioan Gruffudd as Sir Benjamin Merryweather, Natascha McElhone as Loveday, and Tim Curry as Sir William de Noir.

The film has Maria Merryweather battling a curse on her family and that of the de Noirs. It was placed on their families hundreds of years ago by a daughter of the de Noir clan who was the Moon Princess and was to marry a member of the Merryweather clan. When she revealed the source of her power, a set of magical pearls that made any individual speak the truth of their hearts, she found out that her father and soon-to-be husband wanted to rule over her and Moonacre. For their pride and greed, she placed a curse on them that if by the 5000th moon no pure individual came to mend the faults of both families and find and destroy the pearls then Moonacre would be completely destroyed.

The filming for this movie took place in London, England and Hungary. The producers of this film chose their locations well as the scenes in Hungary are perfect for adding a realistic air to the fantasy element of the story.

Beatrix Aruna Pasztor was the costume designer for this film. Her costumes were a new twist on the typical Victorian period dress while still maintaining a fantasy quality.

Here are a few stills from the film:

Dakota Blue Richards as Maria Merryweather

Ioan Gruffudd as Sir Benjamin Merryweather

Natascha McElhone as Loveday

Juliet Stevenson as Miss Heliotrope (on left)

Tim Curry as Sir William de Noir (on left) and Augustus Prew as Robin De Noir (on right)

Maria Merryweather in her bedroom at Moonacre Manor

Even though I can't tell you whether this film follows closely with the original story, I give this film an A+ as a beautiful piece of art and a brilliant bit of fantasy. I definitely recommend this film to anyone who loves fantasy, fairy tales, or who loves to watch film adaptations of books :)

Until next time ^____^