Month: September 2012

Sunday Legends- The Threads of Fate

-As stated in an earlier entry, don’t knit for your partner until you’re engaged or the Sweater Curse will ruin your relationship.

-On the other hand, knitting a piece of your hair into a project for him will bind the two of you together.

-Spinning your singles counterclockwise and plying clockwise was considered to be a sign of witchcraft, since counterclockwise (widdershins) was associated with witches.

-Knitting with glass needles (witch needles) was considered to be a form of witchcraft- though this may be a very long running urban legend.

-Never tear out your own knitting, especially if knitting for your family. It’s considered bad luck to point of danger.

-Never hand needles to a person tip out. They can puncture your relationship and destroy it.

-Dropping knitting needles is considered bad luck.

-In Slavic folklore, there are fae/fae-like beings especially concerned with knitting. If the hearth is kept cleaned and the children well behaved they make knitting go easier. If they are angered by the state of the hearth, they knot or felt wool, break needles, and otherwise engage in all sorts of bad behavior.

-Knitting in a theater is considered unlucky, especially knitting in the wings.

-Don’t leave your needles empty. Cast on a project as soon as you finish the last.

Fall Into the Holidays #4

Last Week’s Most Viewed Entry

Owl Window Wall Hanging- Photo Credit to My Crafting Channel


Last week’s most viewed entry was My Crafting Channel’s Owl Window Wall Hanging. I love the owl, I think owls are incredibly cute.

Fall Into the Holidays #4

Feel free to share your seasonal recipes, diy, crafts, and other related material! Click on the button that looks like a blue frog at the bottom of the page to view the collection.

Please link to entries, and not your blog main page.

Click around the list and leave a few comments! If you’re early to the party, read through the last few weeks (here)

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Shivers VI

Shivers VI

I love short story anthologies. I love the variety that comes with them, I love that generally speaking even the worst anthology has at least one or two stories that I greatly enjoy.

I want to say that I loved this anthology- but the stories that fell short for me, failed badly enough that it detracted from the stories that I loved. That said, the stories that I loved were exceptionally original and enjoyable. For the most part, I do have to admit that I found the stories that I didn’t like to be particularly original which is a large hurdle for someone who’s been reading horror shorts for 17 years.

One of the strongest points for this anthology was that the vast majority of the stories in this collection dealt with untraditional horror themes. The majority of the pieces are firmly in horror, but there’s really only one that deal with a traditional horror image. Even the Stephen King piece (‘The Crate’) is not really a traditional style horror piece. There’s very little in the way of ghosts, vampires, werewolves, or monsters.

My two favorite pieces in this anthology- ‘The Last Beautiful Day’ and ‘Cobwebs’ most likely wouldn’t look like horror to a lot of readers-which I think actually strengthens both pieces by a considerable margin. Both deal with the darkness of the human psyche, and in saying that, I am not referring to something that would be familiar in the horror genre such as homicide. Both are an examination of the darkness that plagues every day life. And I adored both of them.

The weakness of the anthology is that while most of the pieces were exceptionally original, I felt that not all of them were written to the same caliber. Several felt forced, and a few felt like they were aiming to be exploitative in a way that I didn’t find particularly enjoyable. There were several editorial choices that I didn’t agree with, such as what story opened the anthology, but I think that those are all accusations that can be made of most horror anthologies on the market.

Overall my feeling towards this particular anthology came up as neutral and I’m not sure that I would go out of my way to read the rest of the books in this series. However as light reading material I’m not disappointed in it either.

Harvest- Apple Butter

I have to admit that apple butter is a food that I’m not particularly familiar with. It’s never really crossed my culinary radar. We never had it growing up in the house, and it wasn’t until I got into canning that I even really heard about it.

But with apple season approaching, the thought of apple butter has been cycling through the back of my head.

Based on the sweet and chunky apple butter recipe in The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preservation, this butter is somewhere between an applesauce and a traditional apple butter. I’m hoping to gift some and use some in baking.

There’s no real recipe for this one- if you wanted to make a batch, all I did was add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to my applesauce recipe halfway through cooking and added 20 minutes the cooking time. It probably could have stood for more cooking but it was starting to look like it wanted to start sticking to the pan.

I processed it in a water bath for 15 minutes. The one thing I was surprised with however is that there’s a fair amount of air space in the butter- even with using a chopstick to remove air bubbles. The seals seem to be okay and those will be the jars used first. I got three quarter pints; half of the batch was pulled out for applesauce prior.

I would cut the lemon juice in about half next time. The butter’s good for baking, but not really for eating out of hand.

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Harvest- Juicing for Canning

Depending on what you’re wanting to make, there are plenty of cheap, high quality juices on the market that you can use for jelly making. Wegman’s for example has a solid line of house brand, interesting flavored HFCS free juices for fairly low price.

However, making your own juice for jelly making allows you to know just how clean the end result is and let’s you play around with varietal juices that you may not be able to find anywhere else- I’ve never seen Pink Lady apple juice at Wegman’s.

This method also lets you come up with combinations of flavors for a clear jelly that you may not be able to get otherwise- especially if you freeze the end result until you want to make the jelly later. With juicing, you could make elderberry Pink Lady jelly when the apples come into season.

The other upside to juicing like this is that it allows you to take advantage of ugly fruit. Since you’re not using the meat of the fruit, presentation doesn’t matter- so you could run wild in the farmer’s markets seconds/uglies basket. It also allows you to get the most out of fruit that doesn’t want to behave- this batch came about with some nectarines that disintegrated when I tried to chop them for freezing.

(Adapted from the Ball Blue Book)

1. Chop your fruit- it doesn’t have to be peeled if using things like apples, but it should be cleaned and chopped. Fruits like berries and grapes don’t need to be chopped.

2. Measure your fruit and add to a saucepan. Add 1 cup of water for every quart of fruit you’re using. Bring to a simmer until the fruit is soft. This batch was simmered for 10 minutes because the fruit had already been blanched and the meat was falling apart already.

3. Place a strainer into a bowl. Strain fruit mixture, using a spatula to press as much juice out as you can get. At this point, if you wanted to keep the fruit bits in there like you were making a nectar, refrigerate or freeze (in theory you could can it but I’ve never done that so I can’t vouch on process).

4. For clear juice, clean the strainer and place on a bowl large enough to hold it. Lay a folded cheese cloth in the strainer, and pour juice through. DO NOT press on the fruit bits- let the juice strain on its own for an hour or two (or even overnight, which is how I strain my fruit pectin). Once the juice is completely strained, freeze or refrigerate.

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Haunted Western New York-Knocking on Death’s Door

The United States experienced a spike in religious and spiritual thought in the 19th century almost on a level not seen during any other period in its history. This spike in interest was especially strong in central and western New York, a region that became so caught up in revivalist thought, so-called ‘new’ religions, and various spiritual movements that it took on the name ‘burned-over district’ for the number of waves of religious thought that the area experienced; the name referred to the way that there was no one left willing to listen simply because so many people had already moved through.

It was in this climate of intense spiritual interest that the Spiritualism movement took hold in western New York. Spiritualism, in part, seeks to make a connection with the dead. In doing so, the movement created an environment where the idea of physical mediumship- or creating a series of environmental effects such that the viewer (and in some cases the medium) believes that they have contacted the other side and physical proof of the afterlife has been obtained.

Knocking On the Door

While the Fox Sisters were not involved in the first wave of American Spiritualism, and in fact the Second Great Awakening would have been finished by the time they were involved in the movement, they may be some of the most visible individuals in Spiritualism. Orginally from the Rochester region the sisters gained attention by claiming that a spirit was in communication with them through a series of knocks, raps, and pops.

The audible interactions with this spirit (and the devil, even) eventually gained the sisters fame, but by the end of their lives at least two of them admitted that the pops were the manipulation of loose joints and the knocks were furniture hitting walls or dropped fruit. The sisters claimed that many of the reactions they got out of their clients were the results of the clients’ own imaginations and desires to reach the dead.

Spirit Photography

At Spiritualism’s height, the art of photography was in its infancy. The American Civil War had the dual distinction of being one of America’s bloodiest wars and the first to receive widespread journalistic attention through the use of the camera. It very much should be noted that the rise of interest in spirit photography- or the art of capturing ghosts and spirits on film-correlates with the American Civil War. In other words, this particular form of physical mediumship arose in a period of American history more than slightly concerned with death.

However, like the Fox Sisters, several large name cases caused the art form to be found as faked by the turn of the century. Interestingly, unlike the Fox Sisters, spirit photography is still in use today and still has a following. The technology has changed but ‘modern spirit photography’ brings up more than 6,000,000 hits on Google. Many are ‘classic’ spirit photos- but a good number of them aren’t.

Spit It Out

Ectoplasm is stuff of ghosts. Believed to literally be the substance through which a ghost will manifest, during the height of physical mediumship it was thought that ectoplasm could be issued from the medium’s body. Often a fluffy white substance, ectoplasm would take on the appearance of cotton balls, gauze or other materials.

Unfortunately, it was often the case that the ectoplasm was literally fluffy white things such as cotton balls or gauze. The medium, often female, would deposit the material into various parts of her clothing (or body) and ‘materialize’ it during a sitting. The sitting would take place in low light conditions and it would appear that the ectoplasm would be appearing out of nowhere. As with both spirit knocking and spirit photography, the belief in ectoplasm as a viable form of ghost contact had fallen out of favor by World War II.

More Information

Burned Over District

Second Great Awakening

Haunted Western New York-The Fox Sisters

Haunted Western New York-Spirit Photography

Ectoplasm

Basic Blogging Tips

No 365 post this week- I generally put it together on Wednesday morning, but yesterday was so full of errands and chores that trying to fit in another post wasn’t going to happen.

(When I say basic, I mean it. I’m not a big name blogger, but these are things that I’ve gleaned from my 3 years of posting off and on at different blogs, or from the big name bloggers that I do follow).

1. Word Verification

In a word (haha)- don’t.

Or if you’re adament that you must use word verification, make sure that it actually works and that your readers will be able to read it. Blogger especially is notorious for having a word verification that commenters can’t actually read.

In other words, you’re going to loose comments if it takes people 15 minutes just to get through your spam filters.

2. Check Your Spam Filters

On both your blog proper and your blog email.

I loose a lot of blog hop notifications to my spam filter. All of my emails route into a single address and I check my spam filter pretty regularly for BPAL swap notifications. What I noticed is that the larger my blog becomes (and I’ve tripled my traffic in the last month), the more emails I’m loosing to my spam filter.

I check my comment spam for the same reason- occassionally non-spam comments end up there. If you check it once a day or a few times a week, the spam doesn’t build up so large that it becomes unmanagable.

3. Go Hopping

If you have content that fits into blog hops, use them. They’re a good way to network your blog and grow your readership.

4. Be consistent

What is your voice? What makes you happiest to write about? Figure out what your voice is, and  your theme, and stick with it. It may take awhile but people are going to get used to you writing about a specific topic- and come looking to you for that topic. I have a pretty split readership; my hits are pretty evenly split between the horror and the fiber/food content on this site.

Posting at roughly the same time a day, and posting with the same frequency each day, helps as well. It gets your readership used to what you’re writing. I try not to post more than 2 entries a day, I post at night, and I alternate the main theme of the blog.

5. Use a Schedule

Work out what you want to post and when you want to post it. I don’t preplan every day, but there are bloggers that do. I have columns that I post with regularity- Sunday Legends, Haunted Western New York, and my 365 project. I may not post them every week, but I post them on the same day every time I do post them. Again, eventually you’ll develop readership for that content if they know that it’s going to be there. I have readers from ONTDCreepy that know that on Saturday night they’re going to get a new urban legend.

6. Post Pictures, Not Links

This is a tip that I just got, and I have no idea why it works. If you post a picture to your Facebook blog page with your entry link in the comments, you’ll get more hits per entry from Facebook than if you just post the entry to your page. There’s no logic that I can see that suggests that it should work- but it does.

7. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

It’s great to get ideas from other people. But you’re not another blogger, you’re not going to have their strengths- or their weaknesses. There’s no point in feeling bad that you can’t, say, paint pumpkins the same way- especially if you’re trying to run a cooking blog.

Blogging should be fulfilling. It shouldn’t be about who takes better pictures or who writes better cake recipes (my uncle is the professional photographer, and it’s my aunt who’s the baker).

The Frugal Girl has a couple of posts that say it better than I can, so I’m just going to link you other to her.

 

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