Archive for April, 2016

Final Signs

I absolutely love visiting cemeteries.  To me they are the most peaceful places on earth (with the exception of the rare secluded beach).  The older they are the better.  I can spend hours wandering through the aisles reading headstones and admiring the craftsmanship of the talented masons who created these final monuments.  So much love and detail used to go into grave markers before it became required to make them flat so the grounds are easier to mow. The flat versions also hold up better in rough weather and are less prone to vandalism since they can’t be knocked over.

Despite time, weather and vandalism many of these great works of art still stand in cemeteries around the world. Much like tattoos, the symbols on the headstones can tell you far more about the deceased than just their name and the years they spent on earth.  There are dozens of these symbols, today we will look at some of the botanicals and their meanings.

Flowers

Most headstones have flowers, they are symbols of sorrow and the brevity of life. However the type of flower is also important as they each have a story to tell. Lilies,  are symbols of resurrection or eternal life. Poppies are signs of sleep and therefore death, also for peaceful rest.

On a happier note some flowers are all about love.  Roses are commonly sign at graves.  They are flowers of love, hope and beauty.  A red rose symbolizes martyrdom and a white rose symbolizes purity and virginity. The phase of the rose coincides with the phase of life in which the person passed.  Rose buds are for those who died as a child, partial blooms are for teenagers and full bloom is for a person in the prime of their lives (usually in their 20’s). In the language of flowers tulips tell a story of passionate love and unlike roses do not have any thorns to spoil that love. Sunflowers connote a life fulfilled or a devotion to God.

Some flowers can tell you the nationality of a person.  In the case of the thistle the memorialized individual is likely Scottish. Clovers are often on Irish graves (or they can be for gamblers luck).

Broken flowers or branches are typically seen on the graves of younger people to indicate a life cut short or someone who passed prematurely.

Fruit

The presence of fruit is said to signify eternal plenty. Some fruits, like figs and pineapples mean prosperity and eternal life. Pomegranates are similar stand for immortality, resurrection, and nourishment of the soul.

Grapes are used for Christian graves.  There are different opinions about exactly what each representation of the grape can mean.  Some say if they are on the vine they refer to the blood of Christ which others believe the vines to represent Christ’s relationship to the church.

 

Trees

The tree is a symbol of life (tree of life) and/or faith. A spouting tree is a sign of eternal life. At time you may find a tree trunk decorated with anchor or lilies or other icons which represent the type of life a person lived.

A tree which is broken or leaning shows mortality and may indicate a premature death like the broken flowers or branches. Similarly a tree stump is a sign of a life interrupted.  A stump with ivy is typically found to show the head of household.

More specifically the willow tree is know as the tree of humans sorrow and is a sign of grief.  Willows are carried at masonic funerals and may indicate the grave of a free mason.  The willow is also an ancient Greek symbol of the underworld goddesses, especially Persephone.

A mountain ash or rowan tree is said to keep evil spirits from bothering the dead. Bitch trees were used by the Celts to cover the dead.

Sheaves of Wheat

A sheaf of wheat is typically found on the headstones of the aged.  It represents the divine harvest.  It calls to mind the connection between a farmer harvesting wheat and the grim reaper harvesting lives.

Wreaths

A wreath alone indicates victory in death. The type of wreath can tell you more about the person. A laurel wreath is used to show a person who attained distinction in the arts, literature, athletics or the military.  Ivy wreaths are for joy.

When a wreath is found on a skull it is a sign of the victory or death over life.

As with most symbols these are all open to interpretation.  Some cultures may have different meanings behind the same flower or fruit or the placement may have to do with the deceased’s preferences.

This is only a partial list, you can find more listings here.

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Not Your Average Bump

When I was pregnant I spent many hours searching high and low for maternity clothes that I could be proud of.  I needed something that fit my personal styles and tastes while still providing the comfort necessary for my expanding size. They also had to be appropriate for the business casual corporate office in which I worked.  This was no easy task.  One I hope to save other people from enduring.

Seraphine

The British designer/retailer Seraphine has recently begun opening stores in the US. I was fortunate in that they open a New York store shortly after I became pregnant. The clothing featured is not especially spooky, but they have some great pieces.  They are a great resource for work appropriate attire.

The photos here are three of the pieces I purchased.  The winter coat has expanding stretchy sides which made more room that you might expect.  I was able to wear this comfortably through an entire long cold New York winter. The black belt is a wrap around piece which you tie to fit your size as you like.  I found I had trouble keeping it up when my bump was small.  That didn’t stop me from wearing it nearly every day as it became my favorite accessory. This black sweater was super comfortable and warm and fit well underneath the coat even on days I added an additional base layer. All three items were indispensable staples.

The stores may not have all the items you seek, rest assured, you can order online and have the items delivered worldwide.

ASOS

I didn’t discover ASOS until I started talking to other mommas about where they found maternity clothes.  It’s important to note that ordering online is your only option as the do not have free standing stores.  Rest assured, they ship worldwide and deliver quickly.  I found the majority of my tops here and a few pants.  The best item I purchased was a maternity bathing suit.  I didn’t use it much, only on our babymoon, but it is likely the best bathing suit I have ever owned.  The best part about it was being able to get into it comfortably at 35 weeks.

the items shown here are not exactly the pieces I purchased as the stock has changed in the last year (’cause duh). The swimsuit is the same style. Pro Tip: If you own a string bikini already you can skip buying a new suit.  Your bump is beautiful and you should be proud to show it off. Just double check that your bits are still appropriately covered before you head out in public.  I was lucky that mine just barely worked when heading out on my babymoon.

I have now made ASOS one of my go to sites for shopping in general.

H&M MAMA

The well known fast fashion retailer is a great resource for maternity basics. The selection isn’t huge, but it’s worthwhile to have a look.  The jeans fit well all through the pregnancy and postpartum.  The simple T’s were easy to dress up for the office or relax in over the weekend.

The studded dress and lace top above were not available when I was shopping or I absolutely would have purchased those.

Nordstrom

I only bought a few pieces from Nordstrom, but they became regulars in the rotation of work outfits. They have a very wide selection of dresses which I don’t wear often so I didn’t buy.  However, Nordstrom is known for high quality so I’m sure they are just as nice as the shirts I purchased.

Blank NYC

I have not seen any free standing stores or I would raid them on a regular basis.  The Blank NYC brand can be found in well known retailers like Macy’s, Nordstrom and Destination Maternity.  I found a magnificent vegan faux leather biker jacket at Destination Maternity. I lived in that thing until the weather got too cold.  If it fit my current post pregnancy size I would be wearing it still. I was able to wear it sipped closed or wide open.  Even before my dumb was very big I didn’t feel like I was swimming in fabric, yet there was always enough to cover me comfortably as I grew.

Belly Button Band

These little gadgets are a great money saver in the beginning.  I was lucky in that I didn’t gain very much weight so I was able to wear regular pants for a long time.  When they started to get to tight in the waist I bought the belly button band.  they allowed me to wear the same pants a wore pre-pregnancy until about month 7.  I reached a point where my bump was so big I couldn’t see the buttons and putting on pants was a real hassle. By that point I was basically just giving up and wearing leggings as pants anyway.  These come in an assortment of colors to match your shirt, pants or skin tone which is really nice. There are two styles, one goes over your bump and the other goes under. Both button directly into your existing pants and utilize existing button holes to keep them up. I recommend picking up a few.

Honorable mention goes to Zulily. The stock changes constantly so check often.  The shipping can take a long time (depending on the length of the deal), but I’m sure you will find something worth the wait.

For those of you who may be wondering about my bump since I’ve mentioned it so many times…well here I am.

my bump 2

Dress: Zulily / Belt: Seraphine / Boots: DSW

my bump 3

Suit: ASOS

my bump 4

Shirt: Nordstrom / Pants: Held up by Belly Button Band / Bent: Seraphine / Scarf: H&M


Ebony Edibles

Do you love to garden? Are you so spooky your green thumb is black? Well, then I have some lovely black fruits and vegetables for you to add to your goth garden.

Blackberries

Blackberries are probably the first black fruit to come to mind for most people.  They are fairly easy to find in supermarkets. What most people may not have tasted is a fresh berry direct from the vine ripened in the sun. There are different types which have different growing requirements.  A little research would be required to find the proper plant for your environment and soil. Or just speak to you local nursery. There are plenty of ways to enjoy these berries once you have them ready to harvest.  They tend to grow in large quantities so it’s best to find recipes that require a lot, like jam or (my favorite) pie!

Black Corn

Black corn is an heirloom plant. Those wishing to from it would need to special order seeds.  Interestingly it’s suggested that the ears be eaten young and fresh when still white.  Once the kernels mature to their darkest shape of purple-black they are best used for corn meal.  While the variety is relatively easy to grow, making your own corn meal sounds like a challenge.

Black Grapes

There are multiple varieties of black grapes.  My grandmother grew a type of black grape in her backyard.  To this day they are the sweetest and best tasting grapes I’ve ever had.  They were so huge they took two (or more) bites to eat.  Anywhere you can use a white or red grape you can substitute black. My sister and I would dine al fresco in the dirt under our grandmother’s vines. Where ever you live there is likely to be a variety that grows well.  You will need to purchase a plant from a nursery as most cannot be started from seed.

Black Kale

Black kale is not truly black, it’s a deeper blue-green than the curly kale you are probably accustomed to.  Originating in Italy the proper Italian name for this kale is cavolo nero, also known as lacinato kale or dinosaur kale because of the bumpy leaves resembling reptile flesh. Kale in general is one of the few plants that thrive in cold weather and is widely available in winter. Like other forms of kale, black kale is considered to be extremely healthy and has the same culinary uses. Black kale is sometimes considered a delicacy so you can feel really fancy when you serve your freshly grown, hand picked, and expertly prepared leaves.

Black Mint

There are multiple plants which go by the name black mint.  Only one is the super strong kick in the teeth mint you have been craving which is the true black mint.  A member of the well known peppermint family it can be used in many dishes and is especially suited to savory recipes. While mint is low-maintenance to grow it is also invasive.  It’s recommended that these herbs are grown in containers.  Peppermint plants cannot be started from seed so you will have to buy a small plant and start from there.  Once you have your own little bush you can enjoy the leaves at will.  What better to serve at a mad tea party than fresh picked black mint tea?

Black Radish

Black radishes may appear dark and scary on the outside, but they are bright white on the inside. However, don’t let that snowy flesh fool you, these babies bite back.  They can be used in recipes both raw and cooked.  Just be careful to have a balance of flavors so you aren’t overwhelmed.  Growing them is actually quite simple, they need very little land and lots of sunshine.  Good news is, if you love them, they grow quickly so you can enjoy them throughout spring.


Etherial & Endangered

Today is Earth Day. It’s a day dedicated to taking care of this giant mass of soil and water that we all call home. There are a huge number of reasons our home needs help; air pollution, water pollution, ground pollution, etc. The human race’s wide spread destruction has also greatly effected the animals that share this world with us.  All of these animals need and deserve our attention. I have chosen to bring your attention to a few endangered versions of mythical creatures.

Mermaids

Half human/half fish beings cannot actually exist according to science, but that isn’t any fun. There are many theories on where these tales (hehehe) of mermaids started.  One of the most likely origins is the dugong or manatee. When Christopher Columbus recorded seeing mermaids off the cost of the new world he made the first recorded sighting of manatees in North America. Manatees are in great danger due to their general nature, large size and slow movements.  All three species are currently listed as near extinction. You can do something about this by joining forces with a conservation group such as Save The Manatee Club and help save the mermaids.

For those of you who still want to believe in the existence of mermaids you will be interested to learn of the aquatic ape theory.  According to this theory we land humans are descended from an earlier aquatic primate version….which would mean we are all defended from mermaids.

Fairies & Pixies

Fairies and pixies are known for being secretive and tiny.  Notorious for hiding from human eyes there is no way to say they don’t exist.  More visible flying beauties that may very well be responsible for the mythical stories of fairies and pixies.  Dragonflies and butterflies flit about a variety of landscapes with magical ease and beauty.  The translucent wings of dragonflies are especially etherial and fairy like.  Although these two types of insects may seem ubiquitous and plentiful there are many species who appear on the endangered species list. (The species shown are the Boisduval’s Blue butterfly, the Jamaican Giant Swallowtail butterfly, the Hine’s Emerald dragonfly and the Rivulet Tiger dragonfly.)  The Butterfly Conservation dedicated to helping the butterflies, though I could not find an organization dedicated directly to dragonflies.

Unicorns

It is theoretically possible that an animal similar to a horse with one single horn may have actually existed at some point in earths history.  There are no fossil records to prove this theory, but there’s nothing to say it’s impossible. There are some animals known animals that could have provided the inspiration for stories of unicorns.

The elasmotherium is now extinct, but may have lived along side humans who could have written about it as a large animal with one long center horn. One creature still alive today, the great indian rhinoceros, has one large central facial horn. The scientific name for this lovely being is Rhinoceros Unicorns due to this horn.  Rhinos are also related to horses though not close enough to breed.

Looking for a way to help save the unicorns?  Contact the International Rhino Foundation.

Dragons

Dragons, huge flying majestic and frightening creatures found in myths around the world. Although we don’t see these beings roaming the skies on a regular basis there are real life dragons in the world, though they are much smaller than you might imagine. The Yinnietharra Rock Dragon is one of those tiny beasts.  These little dragons are shy and only found in Western Australia. While they may not be the dragons of your imagination they still deserve to be protected. They are not well known or studied and do not have their own conservation organization.  The not-for-profit organization ARKive  works with the charity Wildscreen and have spent time researching and document the tiny dragons.

Yeti

Yetis are known for living in the frozen wilderness, being covered in white fur and sometimes attacking or eating explorers. They are basically a frozen version of big foot. Polar bears are and easily recognizable real yeti, especially when one stands up. For being so well known polar bears are endangered.  Thanks to global warming their habitat is shrinking.  This also affects their food supply and ability to make more little polar bears.  Once the habitat is gone there isn’t anywhere else for them to go.  There are many organizations working to save the yetis such as Polar Bears International with whom you can join forces.

If you want to learn more about endangered species you can find well organized listings on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.  You can also help by working with the organizations listed above or some others with broader focus like the World Wildlife Fund, Wildlife Conservation Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, or The Sierra Club.

This Earth Day take a moment and think about what you can do to help save the mermaids, unicorns, fairies, dragons and yetis. They might not be able to tell you in person, but they will thank you for any help you can provide.


Scare Your Children

Children’s literature can often be too sappy for me.  I can only stand so many bland feel good stories before craving murder. Fictional murder of course.  My little burrito has a selection of stories which I enjoy reading. I have a couple which are pretty average and others that keep up both entertained.  My theory is that children will only be afraid of things we tell them are scary.  If the spider and bat finger puppet books I read to him now seem normal then hopefully he won’t find these things frightening in the future.  That’s my hope anyway.

Since I temporarily live in France I can’t build the library I want for my little guy. That doesn’t stop me from window shopping for all the wonderfully spooky books I want for him in the near future.

Original Fairy Tales

Everyone is familiar with some of the great writers of original fairy tales like Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm. Not everyone has actually read them.  Forget the happy endings the Disney people have presented, the originals are much better.  Generally speaking the notion of happily ever after doesn’t exist.  The original versions are all cautionary tales intended to keep children from running off without their parents, talking to strangers or trusting people they shouldn’t.  Beyond just being cautionary these tales are down right terrifying. Cinderella (Brothers Grimm) for example did not end with the prince simply not being able to fit the glass slipper onto the step-sister’s feet.  Instead the step-sisters were able to trick the prince into taking them until he noticed the pools of blood in his carriage.  Why blood? Because the girls had cut off pieces of their feet to be able to fit in the glass slipper.  Honestly, I’m not sure if I would want to spend my happily ever after with a guy who is too dumb to notice mutilated and bloody feet until AFTER getting into the carriage….TWICE!

Bunnicula

This tale of a vampire bunny who sucks the juice out of vegetables was one of my favorites as an early reader.  I guess I’ve always loved scary stories…and bunnies. Bunnicula grew from one book into a whole series between 1982 and 2006. There were a couple of spin offs series also called Tales from the House of Bunnicula and Bunnicula and Friends: Ready to Read. Just this year the stories were turned into an animated series.  I haven’t watch it yet, but it’s now at the top of my must watch list.

Where the Wild Things Are

An award winning classic featuring a wolf costume clad wild child participating in a rumpus with wild things.  Which sounds like for more fun that a child who deserved to be sent to bed without supper should be having. Despite some critics believing the book is too scary for children, the story of Max and his wild friends is one that has been beloved for more than 50 years.  It’s also one of the more beautifully works for children available.

The author, Maurice Sendak, is mostly known for writing and illustrating Where the Wild Things Are. However, he is also responsible for an even more controversial children’s story entitled In the Night Kitchen. One might not expect a dreamy tale of a little boy floating through a bakers kitchen to end up on the American Library Association’s challenged and banned book lists.  Until you find out that the little boy spends the entire story completely nude.  Featuring full frontal pre-teens is likely to draw some attention from more than a few parents.  If you think that type of illustration is appropriate for your child the book is supposed to be quite well written and the both of you may enjoy it….I haven’t decided how I feel about it yet.

The Worst Witch

The Worst Witch is a series of books about a clumsy young girl to which I think most of us can relate.  This should come as no surprise since the author, Jill Murphy, started the first book at the age of 15 and based the witch school and its students on her own school and peers.  There are a total of 7 stories now as well as a couple of TV series and spin offs. As a child or teenager it can often be comforting to read stories about people who are just as awkward and clumsy as you are….or get lost in the fantasy of having magical spells you can use on your enemies.

BabyLit® Books & First Steps

BabyLit® publishes a wide variety of baby book (board and hardcover) based on classic literature.  Some titles include; Frankenstein: A BabyLit® Anatomy Primer, Dracula: A BabyLit® Counting Primer, Alice in Wonderland: A BabyLit® Colors Primer (which my son loves), and A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A BabyLit® Fairies PrimerThere are over a dozen more to chose from and more on the way. BabyLit® also publishes a series about a little raven named Edgar based on the works of Edgar Allen Poe.  I own the hardcover version of Edgar and the Tattle-tale Heart, it’s really cute. I highly recommend anything they publish.

 


Wonderfully Batty

Yesterday, April 17th, was Bat Appreciation Day.  Bats are one of natures most unappreciated and misunderstood animals in creation.  Similar to the humble spider, bats are feared for no good reason.

Pollinator

Some of human kinds favorite foods like bananas, avocados, peaches, and cashews, rely on bats for pollination.  Without bats these crops would fail along with countless other plant species. Nectar eating bats spread pollen from plant to plant as they feed.  Without this pollination the plants would not produce fruit.  These types of bats live in diverse climates, from rainforests to deserts, and are essential to the survival of these and many other diverse ecosystems.

Pest Control

If you hate mosquitoes you owe a huge thank you to the insect eating bats for keeping their populations down.  Without bats you would be covered in bites on a regular basis.  Not to mention the help they provide in keeping mosquito transmitted diseases at bay.  These little guys can eat literally tons of bugs every night. Insectivorous bats also eat other nocturnal pests like the corn earworm moth.  These moths would destroy millions of dollars in vital crops, such as cotton, if it were not for the bats.  This not only saves money on crop production, but it also means that the farmers can use far less pesticide. Meaning they benefit the farmers and the environment.  Just imagine a world where crops are destroyed by insects and/or covered in billions of dollars worth of additional pesticides, while your town is covered in a literal ton of mosquitos. Not a world in which I want to live.

Seed Dispenser

Fruit eating bats are greatly beneficial in helping to reverse deforestation in rainforests and other areas ravaged by clearcutting.  Due to the bats willingness to fly over wide open spaces and cover long distances at night they are able to spend seeds farther and wider than birds, primates, and other fruit eating animals.  Seeds dropped from bats can account for the vast majority of new growth in a once clearcut area. This new growth provides protection for more delicate plants to grow as well as homes for other animals. Once again the bats prove to be highly beneficial to the environment.

Just in case you needed further convincing here are some photos of rescued baby bats wrapped up like burritos.

So the next time you see bats flying overhead don’t fear them, thank them.  If you want to do more to help these wonderful little eco warriors you can install a bat box at your home or work with one of the many conservation groups such as Bat Conservation Trust, Bat Conservation International or the Organization for Bat Conservation. #savethebats


Coffin Sweet Coffin

There are plenty of ways to customize your crypt to your creepy inclinations.  Adding a few (or a lot) of well placed coffins is just one way. These days you can find casket inspired options for nearly every room in the house.

Bathroom

coffin_med_cabinet_open

The perfect medicine cabinet for all your potions. Found here.

coffin-tub

For those days when you need to soak your bones. Very limited edition.

Bedroom

casket-bed

Bone tired?  Rest in peace here.

coffin wall decals

Frightfully delightful custom wall decals.

coffin jewlery hangers

A final resting place for your beautiful baubles. 

Kitchen

coffin kitchen

Scare up some delicious delicacies in this killer kitchen.

coffin clock

Make sure those mini coffin cakes aren’t over cooked with this clock.  

Living Room

coffin-couch

Sit a spell and rest your carcass in a real repurposed coffin couch.

shelves for life

Store your knick knacks while you’re alive and your mortal coil when you’re not.  Shelves for life convert into a coffin when you need one.

coffin table

If you have the couch and the shelves you must complete your morbid abode with this coffin shaped table.

coffin mirror

This mirror is perfect for making sure you don’t look like the walking dead….or making sure you do.