Halloween Madness – starting with history or rather a brief history

It’s Halloween time and the best parts of the season are yet to come. 50% off candy, wacky and provocative costumes and pumpkin spiced everything. Including your mom.

Before we get into the fun stuff, here’s a bit of a history lesson. Halloween is a Celtic holiday. Yep. Yep. It’s not just a day for candy and anonymous sex. It’s also not just a neo-pagan or Wiccan religion. It, like many other Christian holidays, was a real holiday celebrated as the New Year for the ancient Celts.

You’re welcome.

Tara Brooch from 700 AD at the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin


A brief history of Halloween

Halloween is a holiday despite what the candy companies, greeting cards and Big 3 religions want you to believe. It’s an ancient holiday that was once called Samhain by the Celts (think before 10th century). It means November and roughly broken down and translated means “Summer’s End”. It was the New Year for the Irish, Scots and Manx Celts. It was a time to take stock of your harvest and prepare for the new year and oncoming cold. You would slaughter your livestock during this time in order to prepare and keep others that could handle the oncoming time. It was pretty much about preparing for surviving and honoring what took place in the last year. Including the dead.

According to Peter Berresford Ellis in his book “The Celts” the celebration of Samhain was:

[The}…one day of the year when the Otherworld could become visible to this world: on the feast of Samhain, the eve of 31 October to 1 November. This was a time when the supernatural boundary between the two worlds was broken down and people, the living and the dead, could move freely between the two lands. IT was a time when those who had been wronged by the living could return and haunt them. Christianity, unable to suppress the belief, adopted it. 1 November became All Hallows Day or All Souls Day and the evening before, ‘Hallowe’en’.”

The custom of wearing costumes and masks as to trick the evil spirits by pretending to be one of them (sort of like in zombie movies when someone tries to act like a zombie so they don’t get eaten by the real zombies) or to ward them off.

“The Gaelic custom of wearing costumes and masks was an attempt to copy the evil spirits or ward them off. In Scotland the dead were impersonated by young men with masked, veiled or blackened faces, dressed in white.[18][19] Candle lanterns, carved from turnips, were part of the traditional festival. Large turnips (also known as rutabaga or swedes) were hollowed out, carved with faces, placed in windows to ward off evil spirits” – Wikipedia

In the 11th century, the church adopted the Holiday and made it a bit more religious and soon after began the propaganda that the holiday was a time for demons, devils and evil to leak out and shouldn’t be celebrated.


Pumpkins were actually an American thing that started in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Why? The British Isles and Ireland don’t have pumpkins silly. They do have turnips and rutabagas and other stuff that I would never eat and would prefer to carve up into a slightly creepy mannequin face. The Celts didn’t even carve these things until later into Christian Conversion of the holiday around the earlier part of the 20th century. They used them as wards for the ‘evil spirits’.

A creepy ass Turnip that was carved in the early 20th century and is currently on display at the Museum of Country Life, Ireland.

“The tradition of carving a lantern started in Scotland and Ireland where it was traditionally carved from a turnip, and in England where a beet was used.[1] They were created on All Hallows’ Eve and left on the door step to ward off evil spirits.[2] An offering or, as we now know it, a “treat”, would also be commonly left to placate roaming sprites and evil spirits — otherwise they might ‘fiddle’ with property or livestock (play a “trick”).” – Wikipedia



Costumes used to be scary or representational and later on they became silly. Now it’s pretty much an excuse to dress up in nothing but a loincloth or a thong and go parading around the city.

Before that though, costumes were part of the holiday so that they could trick or ward off the spirits coming from the Otherworld. Not all of them were bad but sometimes a lass just wants to be left alone and go about her business.

In  Scotland, young men called Guisers put on a costumes that were”…masked, veiled or blackened faces, dressed in white” (Wiki) and went around town. In the 16th century and on, the costumes wore worn by all and the young’uns would troll the neighborhoods, knocking on thatch doors for treats or they would pull a trick. Please note, they never threw eggs or any of the really mean pranks kids these days pull (yes, I just realized how old I sound. Move on).


If you want to know more about Samhain/Halloween:

History Channel

Chalice Center –  it’s a religious/spiritual site it does a good job explaining without trying to convert. It also shows you the traditions that have carried through like Bobbing for Apples (apples were a very sacred symbol and important fruit for the Celts)



If I knew you were coming, I’d’ve baked: i just lost my vanilla bean virginity + recipes and pics

The other day I had a sudden craving for pound cake. Not the greasy processed Entenmann’s variety (which I did have on my table and got stale because I would pass by it and cringe) but the good ol’ fashioned buttery cakey wonderful kind.

So I began to look on the interwebz. I checked my usual suspects; The Pioneer Woman & Smitten Kitchen and couldn’t really find anything so I scoured the web and came up empty. So I tried one more time over at Smitten and wham bam! I found it. The recipe that would satisfy my craving and offer me the opportunity to use vanilla. Until I saw the vanilla beans. Fear froze me as my tastebuds began to tingle. Smitten Kitchen’s recipe called for vanilla beans. *gulp*

I bake .I do. In the fall. But never with something as precious as vanilla beans. Extract? Sure. I try to only buy the best because frankly, I love vanilla but beans? No way. No how.

But the pictures. They looked amazing. You know when you’re dreaming and you dream of something in your hand, like money or candy and then you wake up and you still think you have it in your hands? This is what that picture did to me.  By the way, I do not recommend trying to lick a flatscreen computer monitor.
So, ok. Vanilla beans. I trust Smitten’s recipes and look, she was also popping her own vanilla bean cherry with this recipe. If she could do it the best I could do was try, right?


So, I marched to the natural food market near my house and perused the shelves and found reasonably priced beans from a brand I trusted:

So I brought it home (As you can see) and today, I started on the recipe which was taken from Smitten Kitchen’s blog.

Vanilla Bean Pound Cake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 pound (2 cups) sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, used is fine
1 pound (4 sticks) butter, at room temperature — (I left mine out for about an hour and ten minutes and they ended up looking pretty awesome)
1 pound (9 large) eggs
1 pound (4 cups) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. In a food processor, grind vanilla bean and sugar until vanilla is as finely chopped as it can get. Sift this mixture twice, making sure all larger pieces have been filtered out. Set aside.

2. In another bowl, add the flour and salt together

3. In a large bowl, cream your butter with a bit of the vanilla sugar until you’ve got a good base going.  word of advice, always cut up your butter. It’s easier on your blade or edge beaters and there’s less splash back.  Gradually add the rest of the vanilla sugar, not stopping until it is creamy and smooth.

4. With your KitchenAid whisk the eggs one at a time (or two at time. Don’t worry if your mixture looks curdled, it’s not), beating well after each addition. Gradually sift in the flour and salt mixture, beating constantly. Add the vanilla extract and continue beating until well blended.

5. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube or bundt pan. Pour in the batter and ”spank” the bottom of the pan to distribute the batter evenly. Bake until a straw inserted into the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour 15 minutes, taking care not to overcook. Turn cake out onto a rack and let cool.

As a note: this cake is on the dry side. I love the flavor and the texture.It goes great with sauces, coulis, jams or caramel.  I prefer to use Lemon Curd. If you want a less dry cake, I recommend, leaving it in the oven for -10 minutes. As long as the cake is cooked, meaning you took the stick out and it was dry, then you’re good.

The first thing I did was pretend I was a pastry chef and cut one of the beans in half and scrap out some of the paste from one of them

Looks a bit like Vegemite doesn’t it?

Then I got serious.

Throwing the pods and the 2 cups of sugar in my little food processor (because the big one is missing), I began…processing. I think next time I’ll use my grinder but I’m still happy with the results. I mean, I pretty much wanted to sugar scrub myself to death with the end results.

But wait, there’s more!

Trying something new can often taste like fear

I was on the phone with a friend of mine last night, a truly spectacular feat in and of itself because I hate the phone, and we got to talking about my being unemployed.

He mentioned something that he read a few days ago about doing something new everyday for 30 days. He suggested I do it that way I can sort of shake out the cobwebs and have something to do.

I’m thinking….why not.

My only impediment is my own fears and well…my anxiety and panic disorders. Those are being managed pretty well with medication and I’m sure if I do things that aren’t absolutely bat shit crazy, I should be fine. Right?


I’ll be honest with you guys. I’ll probably try it for a week and see what happens. I mean this could end in disaster. No one wants that.

Unless it makes for good story.

I’m probably going to start next week…so stay tuned.

What are some things you would want to do if you had the time and the challenge to try something new for 7 days?

early writer friday: Bullet with his name on it

This is a free thought writing prompt that I wrote about a year ago. I don’t know what prompted me or what I was reading at the time to think of such a story of revenge, but I liked it. So I kept it. With a few edits, I present to you my untitled vignette of loss and revenge.


The Big Combo trailer image


When I was thirteen years old, I witnessed my first murder.

Susy had been eighteen and gorgeous. Or at least that’s what I thought of my older sister. Blonde, clear blue eyes, flawless skin that would only break out in pimples during her time of the month and curves that made her boyfriend Scott smile like an idiot.

Despite being pretty and well-liked, Susy was nice. To everyone. Including the weird smelly kid down the block, to my Mom’s bastard of a boyfriend and to the three legged cat that camped out on under our front porch with a predilection to scratch and spit.

Most importantly she was nice to me.

I don’t have any illusions about what a little shit I had been at thirteen; angry most of the time, obnoxiously sarcastic all of the time and a thief some of the time, I was not a poster child for all that was good and sweet in adolescents. In fact, I had been threatened with boot camp, Catholic school and juvie enough times that a normal kid would’ve known to quit while she was ahead.

I wasn’t a normal kid. Neither was my situation.

But, if I knew then what I knew now…well, I would’ve changed. I wouldn’t have pushed buttons, wouldn’t have pushed people away and definitely wouldn’t have opened the door to the man who killed my only ally.

In hindsight, through therapy mostly, I realized that the weeks leading up to Susy’s murder she had become withdrawn. She was constantly sick and moody, the nice Susy, the cheerleader and valedictorian had been replaced by crazy Susy. The Susy that cried herself to sleep at night, who weeped while brushing my hair and would suddenly become quiet when I entered a room.

To say that Susy was my sister would be to cheapen our relationship. Yes, she was my biological half-sister; the product of my father’s first marriage.  Our Dad had died when I was three and my mother, our father’s second wife, had taken in Susy and for the first few years had raised us like the normal kids we should’ve been.

It was only when I was nine did shit hit the fan.

Susy was like my mother. She took me to school, helped with my homework, wiped away my tears, fought for me and fed me. She was the only person in the world I didn’t want to disappoint.

She was the only person who loved me.

I let her down when I opened that door.

Jerry Thomas Willis was six foot three, blonde and dark eyed. He was two hundred and eighty pounds of muscle and had an attitude that was fueled by booze and vitriol. He loved two things, Jim Beam and my mother Janet Berk. The two J.B’s in his life, he would joke as he smacked my mother’s ass.

Janet hadn’t always been Jerry’s whore. No, she had been a paralegal who had graduated near the top of her class and held two degrees. When my Dad had been alive she had affectionate, if slightly distracted. With her long black hair and grey eyes, my mother had captivated my father with a look. Or at least that’s how she told it. I think it might have been the fact she was pregnant with me.

As Jerry’s girlfriend, Janet went from an intelligent and beautiful woman to a weak willed shell.

The smacks on the ass had turned into smacks across the face which then migrated to beatings.

They evolved into a familial thing.

I was twelve when Jerry broke my arm.

He gave me a few more bruises and scrapes before my mother finally kicked him out and taught both Susy and I about gun safety.

You can never forget the smell of gun powder and freedom.

Susy had always remained unscathed. Scott, though only five nine, had squared off with Jerry a few times and Jerry, though a drunk, was not stupid enough to go after Susy.

Except for that Friday night in October.

Jerry, stumbling drunk and pissed off beyond measure had come to our back door. Janet had been at an AA meeting, Susy was babysitting and Scott was at school.

Pissed that I needed a babysitter, pissed that I was stuck in a backward town in a decrepit ranch house with only one tv and no cable, pissed that I was thirteen and alive; I opened the back door and in came Jerry.

For years I beat myself up over that; He hadn’t needed to even knock on the door, I just let him in. It took many years of therapy to realize that no, I hadn’t let him in, he had pushed me aside so hard that I had bounced off of the wall and onto my face. I still had the bump in my nose to prove its brokenness.

Whatever happened after that will always remain a blur. I remember hearing shouting and a loud crash. Then the sound of flesh against bone and a thud, and then the screaming. That sound still wakes me up at night. It’s the sound of pure terror.

To this day, I can’t tell if it was her or me that was making such an awful sound.

There had been pleading and begging and shouts for me to run, to get away.

I remember that the song playing on the radio was “Tainted Love”.

My memories play like a dream when I think about how the order of events happened. The radio blaring, the sound of the radiator kicking in and Susy crying and pleading that he leave her baby alone.

My thirteen year old self thought she had meant me.

I just know that before the absolute quiet hit, I had reached into the freezer where my mother kept my Dad’s .38 special.

If I think about it, I must have slipped the safety, stood behind him and pulled the trigger but if you put the same gun to my head, I wouldn’t be able to swear to that. All I know is that the screaming had stopped and the radiator stopped kicking and I had squeezed the trigger, the recoil knocking me backwards, smacking my head against a protruding brick from the fireplace we hadn’t used in five years.

Darkness, sweet blissful darkness came after that.

When I came to in a hospital, a smiling nurse at my side and a sobbing Scott on the other side, I pretended to be asleep. Something about the tension in the room made me wary about waking too soon. It was only when I heard the third voice near the foot of my bed, Detective George Marster from the Greene Sheriff’s department, that my sister, my beloved sweet sister who I had called a bitch when she hadn’t changed the radio, was dead.

I was also told that Jerry Thomas Willis had survived the gunshot wound to his chest.

It was days later, when I was being settled into Scott’s well used Chevy that he told me that Susy had been pregnant. They had planned on getting married and taking me with them to Boston.  He loved me like a little sister, he had said with his voice tripping on unshed sobs, and he was still moving to Boston and I was more than welcome to come with him.

Susy would’ve been proud of me, he had said as tears finally fell from his eyes. He had aged at least ten years in the past few days and I knew that I didn’t look like a young kid anymore.

My Mom didn’t fight me when I packed up my stuff.

Scott’s the only family I have and we’re both still haunted.  We rattle around the house and make all of the appropriate noises that living people do. Every once in awhile we even have fun.

But then one or both of us gets quiet.

I’m not sure what he’s thinking but I know what is bouncing through my head. I know what I can never tell him.

I know where Jerry Thomas Willis is. I know his schedule, his patterns, his disgusting habits and the fact that I have to close this particular end.

Not have to. Need to. Taking a life for a life, that’s the only thing that will satisfy this living breathing blackness that has taken residence in my chest.

I need to do it for both of us.

Which leads me to now.

I am 30 years-old and I will perpetrate my first murder.

that’s a blowpop! say from charms

Nothing much to report here, I’m gearing up for Writer Friday which I’m kinda exciting about it. If all works out well, you’ll see some art by a friend of mine with a piece of my writing.
I’m heading off to PA this weekend to shoot some paper targets, spend some time with the family, and then try to make it to an engagement party.

Don’t worry, I’ll not forget about you.

This is a repost from a former blog of mine. Here ya go, something to tide you over until Writer Friday:

But wait, there’s more!