Thursday, 31 October 2013

All Souls extravaganza (with cute update)

Every year, for three days, people around the world celebrate souls, saints and the dead: Halloween, All Saints and the Day of the Dead.

Trick or treating is most popular in the US, but this frightening group from Australia look very good too:

As we're very fond of a certain emerald island, I found some interesting tidbits from that part of the world:

Halloween is a widely celebrated cultural event in Ireland. It is known in Irish as Oíche Shamhna (Irish pronunciation: [ˈiːhə haunˠə] ee-hah how-nah), literally "Samhain Night". In Irish, Samhain is the name for the month of November. The medieval Irish festival of Samhain marked the end of the harvest, heralding shorter days and the "darker half" of the year. It is linked to the dead revisiting the mortal world, large communal bonfires and associated lore.

Houses are frequently adorned with orange pumpkins, or traditional turnip carved into scary faces; lights or candles are sometimes placed inside the carvings, resulting in an eerie effect. The traditional Halloween cake in Ireland is the barmbrack, which is a fruit bread. The Halloween Brack traditionally contained various objects baked into the bread and was used as a fortune-telling game. In the barmbrack were a pea, a stick, a piece of cloth, a small coin (originally a silver sixpence), and a ring. Each item, when received in the slice, was supposed to carry a meaning to the person concerned: the pea, the person would not marry that year; the stick, "to beat one's wife with", would have an unhappy marriage or continually be in disputes; the cloth or rag, would have bad luck or be poor; the coin, would enjoy good fortune or be rich; and the ring, would be married within the year.

I also found some music related to the theme:

According to legend, "Death" appears at midnight every year on Halloween. Death calls forth the dead from their graves to dance their dance of death for him while he plays his fiddle (here represented by a solo violin). His skeletons dance for him until the rooster crows at dawn, when they must return to their graves until the next year.

In France, La Toussaint is the holiday to celebrate all saints (known and unknown) and the departed, when they take chrysanthemums to the cemeteries. The shops and supermarkets get flooded with large pots of chrysanthemums:

The graves of loved ones look very colourful:

I couldn't leave Mexico out, where El Dia de los Muertos is widely celebrated:

La Catrina (la calavera Catrina) has become the referential image of Death in Mexico, it is common to see her embodied as part of the celebrations of Day of the Dead throughout the country; she has become a motive for the creation of handcrafts made from clay or other materials, her representations may vary, as well as the hat.

La Catrina also appears in a mural by Diego Rivera:

People go to great lengths to look spectacular. This dress is made of paper plates, plastic cups and plastic spoons:

There are many other countries that celebrate death at this time of the year. Every culture had its own way to address the theme, which certainly gives people the opportunity to let their imaginations fly!


I had to add this picture of Halloween in the Kalahari, courtesy of Shapeshifterbelly:

Wednesday, 30 October 2013


Carved pumpkins are a familiar sight at Halloween. I decided to find out the origins of the ubiquitous Jack-o'-lantern:

The story of the Jack-o'-lantern comes in many variants retold in different forms across Western Europe, with variations being present in the folklore of Norway, Sweden, England, Ireland, Wales, Germany, Italy and Spain. An old Irish folk tale from the mid-19th Century tells of Stingy Jack, a lazy yet shrewd farmer who uses a cross to trap the Devil. One story says that Jack tricked the Devil into climbing an apple tree, and once he was up there Jack quickly placed crosses around the trunk or carved a cross into the bark, so that the Devil couldn't get down.

Another version of the story says that Jack was getting chased by some villagers from whom he had stolen, when he met the Devil, who claimed it was time for him to die. However, the thief stalled his death by tempting the Devil with a chance to bedevil the church-going villagers chasing him. Jack told the Devil to turn into a coin with which he would pay for the stolen goods (the Devil could take on any shape he wanted); later, when the coin/Devil disappeared, the Christian villagers would fight over who had stolen it. The Devil agreed to this plan. He turned himself into a silver coin and jumped into Jack's wallet, only to find himself next to a cross Jack had also picked up in the village. Jack had closed the wallet tight, and the cross stripped the Devil of his powers; and so he was trapped.

In both folktales, Jack only lets the Devil go when he agrees never to take his soul. After a while the thief died, as all living things do. Of course, his life had been too sinful for Jack to go to heaven; however, the Devil had promised not to take his soul, and so he was barred from hell as well. Jack now had nowhere to go. He asked how he would see where to go, as he had no light, and the Devil mockingly tossed him an ember from the flames of hell, that would never burn out. Jack carved out one of his turnips (which were his favorite food), put the ember inside it, and began endlessly wandering the Earth for a resting place. He became known as "Jack of the Lantern", or Jack-o'-lantern.

Here's a traditional version:

A traditional Irish Jack-o'-Lantern in
the Museum of Country Life, Ireland
Billy and his girlfriend Sandra carved their own:

Some people go to extremes. Here are some carvings by Ray Villafane (courtesy of mrsgunka).

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Double furry friends... (edited)

This is now an emergency edited post. The codes for the pictures went bad overnight and there were loads of blanks, nothing else!

Monday, 28 October 2013

Tip for Halloween

GrannyJ sent us this great idea for Halloween.

Thank you, GrannyJ. It looks fantastic!

Sunday, 27 October 2013

San Francisco fog

Amy sent us this incredible video. Thank you, Amy.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Living in an egg

This is the post I was trying to put together yesterday but couldn't because my computer decided otherwise...

We watched the program Amazing Spaces on Wednesday and I was fascinated by the Exbury Egg.

This is from the site of the artist who commissioned it:

The Exbury Egg will be a temporary, energy efficient self-sustaining work space for artist Stephen Turner in the estuary of the River Beaulieu. It is a place to stay and a laboratory for studying the life of a tidal creek, a collecting and collating centre with integral storage & display areas. It will take on the patina of 730 daily tides below the water line, and 365 days of weathering by wind, rain and bleaching by the sun above.

The egg is surprisingly spacious inside and Stephen Turner seems to be having a jolly good time:

Friday, 25 October 2013

Tadpole ballet

Today my computer decided to slow down to a crawl and it took me ages to put this very simple post together. I had some ambitious plans, but they will have to wait until the slowdown is resolved (very soon, I hope).

This ad is on TV at the moment. I like it a lot. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Unforgettable days...

Today marks the anniversary of the girls' arrival in our neck of the woods. We drank wine, ate French cheeses and laughed until it hurt. We haven't managed to stay up until 4 am since then...

Thank you, CC, TW and Irishgirl for the fantastic days (and nights)!

I'd like to keep a French theme for today's celebration. A few years back there were some commercials for Boursin, a soft cheese with garlic and herbs. The text was always the same: "Du pain, du vin, du Boursin," until they came out with this ad:

Monday, 21 October 2013

Don't step on it!

Amy sent us these photos. What a sight! Thank you, Amy.

"Carpet" is created every year in the Grand-Place in Brussels . It's made entirely with fresh flowers - begonias.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

A touching dedication

An anonymous reader dedicated these jokes to Mrsgunka and Pallottine:

A wife asks her husband:

"Could you please go shopping for me and buy one carton of milk and if they have avocados, get 6."

A short time later the husband comes back with 6 cartons of milk. The wife asks him, "Why did you buy 6 cartons of milk?"

He replied, "They had avocados."

If you're a woman, I'm sure you're going back to read it again! Men will get it the first time. 

My work is done here.


Water in the carburetor

WIFE: "There is trouble with the car. It has water in the carburetor."
HUSBAND: "Water in the carburetor? That's ridiculous "
WIFE: "I tell you the car has water in the carburetor."
HUSBAND: "You don't even know what a carburetor is. I'll check it out . Where's the car?"
WIFE: "In the pool"



Husband and wife had a tiff. Wife called up her mom and said, "He fought with me again, I'm coming to live with you." Mom said, "No darling, he must pay for his mistake. I'm coming to live with you."


Today's Short Reading from the Bible. 


"And God promised men that good and obedient wives would be found in all corners of the earth." Then He made the earth round...and He laughed and laughed and laughed!

Friday, 18 October 2013

What does your drink look like?

I posted these pictures a long time ago, but I find them so beautiful that I decided to post them again. You won't need a microscope to enjoy your drink, just place your orders at the bar...


Black Russian

Bloody Mary



Cranberry juice


Gin & Tonic

Iced tea


Mexican lager

Orange juice

Pina colada

Red wine

Rose wine


Jack Daniels

White wine


Irish stout