Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Holiday Hits: Happy Halloween!

Halloween has arrived, and our home is ready for any who dare to come to our door!  Unfortunately, we live in a rather remote rural area and never get trick-or-treaters, but I always have candy just in case.  The interior is decorated as well, including the dining room, where the table is set with a rather formal "black tie" look:

Since this is the middle of the week, we won't be having an elaborate dinner and it will just be the two of us, but at least we've made some effort!  After dinner I will watch an old horror movie or two, and then it's on to November and Thanksgiving -- but until then, Happy Halloween from our haunted house to yours!


Wish List Wednesdays: Black Velvet Cape


Ever since I saw Anjelica Huston as Morticia in the movie "The Addams Family" (1991) wearing a long, black velvet cape, I have had a secret desire to own this item of apparel myself.  It may not be especially practical, but a woman in a cape looks so mysterious yet elegant:

From Voltaire Fashion Photography

Of course long capes are available everywhere right now as Halloween costumes, but should I ever decide to succumb, I would prefer to purchase something a bit more durable and of better quality.  Such a cape is available from the Pyramid Collection:

The all black full length version costs about $100.  For $20 more, you can also get the cape in green or purple velvet, or a reversible design in either black/red or black/purple.  As far as I am concerned, though, only the all black cape will do.  After all, isn't that what every well-dressed hero (and villain) wears?

Zorro (from Horseland)
The Headless Horseman (from Eclectric Dragonfly)

Batman (from Beyond Hollywood)
Darth Vader (from Star Wars)

Whether your mood is naughty or nice, a long, black velvet cape will always be the perfect fashion statement!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Terrifying Tuesdays: Curse of the Faceless Man (1958)

Last week our frightening flick took us south of the border.  This week we travel across the Atlantic to the sunny shores of Italy -- more precisely, to Pompeii!  "The Curse of the Faceless Man" (1958) is another B-movie from the 1950s that I somehow managed to miss seeing until now, and once again it is not great but still worth watching, if only to see a very young Richard Anderson, pre-"Six Million Dollar Man" days.  The story line is quite similar to that of classic mummy movies -- formerly human undead monster longing for his lost love -- but the setting and the presentation of the tale are unique.  We are treated to a very serious narrator who relates the story as if this were a documentary rather than a mere work of fiction.

A worker at an archeological site in Pompeii uncovers an ancient gold jewelry casket filled with trinkets, including a strange medallion.  Unbeknownst to the worker (but quite clearly to the audience), the box was deliberately shoved out of the ground by a terrifying stone hand!  Later the faceless stone-encrusted body of a man buried for 2,000 years is unearthed.  Of course the archeologists are excited by this unusual discovery, and the lead scientist, Dr. Carlo Fiorillo (Luis van Rooten), calls in an American medical researcher, Dr. Paul Mallon (Anderson), to help with the examination of the body.  The two men, plus assistant Dr. Enrico Ricci (Gar Moore) and Dr. Fiorillo's daughter Maria (Adele Mara), another medical doctor, gather at Fiorillo's lab in the Pompeii Museum to await the arrival of the stone man, only to learn that the truck transporting the find has crashed and the driver is dead under suspicious circumstances.

The doctors rush to the scene.  There they meet up with another archeologist, Dr. Emanuel (Felix Locher), who has been studying the jewelry box and its contents.  He has translated some writing that was on the medallion, and reveals a very odd message indeed, to the effect that a man named Quintullus Aurelius has cursed a wealthy Pompeii family to a fiery death, while he himself will live on.  Of course the obvious conclusion is that the stone-covered man and Quintullus Aurelius are one and the same.  The two archeologists take the declaration on the medallion very seriously, entertaining the possibility that Quintullus may have been the cause of the Mt. Vesuvius eruption which destroyed Pompeii, and may indeed still be alive.  The two medical doctors, Paul and Maria, scoff at this, and an examination of the body's exterior by Paul Mallon finds nothing out of the ordinary, except for some blood on one of the stone man's hands which Paul explains away as having gotten there from the truck driver's injuries caused by the accident.

Paul then pays a visit to his fiancée, Tina Enright (Elaine Edwards), an American artist living nearby.  When he enters her apartment, he sees her latest painting, a rather frightening portrayal of a bound man.  He asks her about it, and Tina tells him that she had a disturbing dream the night before concerning the subject in the painting, and felt compelled to paint him.  She then relates to Paul all of the incidents surrounding the finding of the faceless stone man now at the museum, including the death of the truck driver, and claims that in her dream the creature was after her.  Paul is baffled, as there is no way Tina could have known the details of the archeological discovery.

When Paul mentions the finding of Quintullus to Tina and the coincidence of her dream's events paralleling real occurrences, Tina is horrified, but also curious as to the location of the body.  She insists she must see the stone man, and convinces Paul to bring her along that night when he returns to the museum, where he is to meet with the local police inspector to discuss the suspicious death of the truck driver.  After the inspector leaves, the other scientists learn about Tina's dream.  Tina is anxious to make sketches of Quintullus, but Dr. Fiorillo decides this is not a good idea.

Later that night, Tina feels the need to return to the museum.  She sneaks in to sketch her subject, only to see the statue-like body come to life. A night watchman hears her scream and attempts to shoot the thing, only to be killed for his efforts.  From here on the movie focuses on Quintullus' attempts to reach Tina, while the scientists work to discover the secret of the stone man and the police try to track down the killer before he can strike again.  As is typical in these sorts of movies, the creature does eventually get the girl, only to lose her again, this time forever.  The explanation of his obsession with Tina is an interesting story, and the theory about the creation of the stone man, while wildly improbable, is quite creative.  The destruction of Quintullus is so neat and surprisingly simple that it is almost a letdown.  However, like all classic 1950s movies of this genre, good defeats evil and the boy gets the girl (there is even a bonus romance!), so all is well, and the story ends satisfactorily.  I give this movie a Gore Guide rating of "1" only because of an unnecessarily graphic scene when a police officer is struck down by the stone man -- otherwise this is not an especially violent movie.

Interesting Fact: Richard Anderson is probably best known for his role as Oscar Goldman on the hit 1970s TV series "The Six Million Dollar Man".  He is also the voice of the familiar and often-copied line in the series introduction, "Gentlemen, we can rebuild him.... we have the technology... better than he was before -- better, stronger, faster... "  Oh, I remember it well from my childhood television viewing days!

Gore Guide (0=none to 5=extreme): 1

Monday, October 29, 2012

Mysterious Mondays: "The Lost Ghost" by Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman

"Then I saw a little white face with eyes so scared and wistful that they seemed as if they might eat a hole in anybody's heart."
(from The Literary Gothic)

I have mentioned in a previous post that some of the most heart-wrenching supernatural short stories are those that involve the ghosts of children.  Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman's "The Lost Ghost" is one of the most poignant of these tales, as well as being one of her best.  Two women, neighbors living in a New England village, spend an afternoon together doing needlework and gossiping, when the topic of ghosts is mentioned.  Mrs. Meserve confides to Mrs. Emerson that she once lived in a haunted house.  Intrigued, Mrs. Emerson presses her friend for more information, and after obtaining a promise that the story will not be repeated, Mrs. Meserve obliges.

In her youth, Mrs. Meserve, then Miss Arms, took a position as teacher in the town of East Wilmington.  She went to board with two sisters, Mrs. Dennison and Mrs. Bird, who had recently purchased and remodeled an old house and who were anxious to take in a boarder to help with expenses.  At first all went well and Miss Arms was quite content in her new home.  After about three weeks, however, the ghost made her first appearance to the young teacher.  The spirit was that of a very young girl, pitifully thin and apparently suffering from the cold.  The only words she spoke were "I can't find my mother."  The frightened Miss Arms confronted her landladies, who admitted to having seen the pathetic little ghost child as well, although they knew very little about her.  The only information they had concerned the former residents of the house, and the tragic events which befell them.  Apparently the mother of the child was a despicable woman, who abandoned her little girl in the house when her husband was out of town to run off with another man.  The poor child starved to death all alone in the house before the neighbors even realized what had happened.

The three women remained in the house in spite of the ghost, who was really not very terrifying, except for the fact that she was so pathetic.  Mrs. Bird in particular, a compassionate woman who had never had children of her own, grew to pity the ghostly girl, and fretted about not being able to help her.  The ending of the story is bittersweet, but hints dropped as the narrative progresses make the conclusion not unexpected.  Once again the writer presents a supernatural story as viewed through the eyes of practical New England women, who, even in the face of a tale as tragic as that of the child ghost, face events with stoic determination, this time tempered with compassion.

Visit The Literary Gothic to read the rest of Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman's ghost stories.  They are perfect for Halloween, or any other time you feel the need to read a well-written spooky tale!

From Ellen Moody's Website

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Weekend Wonders: OPI Instinct of Color Video

I just found this video ad for OPI Nail Polish on YouTube, and all I can say is WOW!!!  I keep playing it over and over -- the dancers, the music, and the horse are all absolutely mesmerizing!  How I wish I could dance like those four women, and that my own big, beautiful, black horse could move like the one in the video.  That will almost certainly never happen for either of us, but I wonder if my horse would mind having his hooves painted in OPI colors?  That way we could at least have matching nail polish!  The talented Thoroughbred horse in the video is called Lady in Black, after an OPI nail color of the same name, which in North America is known as Black Onyx.  My horse's former owner called him Black Onyx.  Could this be a sign?  Perhaps this should become my signature nail color?  And just in time for Halloween!

"Black Onyx" OPI nail polish

Friday, October 26, 2012

Foodie Fridays: Irish Soda Bread II

From Eating Well

Believe it or not, I am still trying to use up buttermilk!  I think the next recipe I will try is a new one for Irish Soda Bread.  I posted my favorite recipe for this bread last year, but the new one uses more buttermilk, so maybe I can finally use up what we have left.  I am sure it will be good, and Irish Soda Bread is wonderful at any time of day as toast, for sandwiches, with soup, or as an accompaniment to any meal.  Besides, we are in for a big temperature drop this weekend, which means ideal bread-baking weather.  I can't wait to give this easy recipe a try!

Irish Soda Bread II

2 C. flour
2 C. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 1/4 C. buttermilk

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk.  Fold the dry ingredients into the buttermilk until completely incorporated.  The dough should be soft but not sticky.  Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead gently to form into a rounded shape.  Flip it over and flatten into a large disk about 2 inches high.  Transfer the loaf to a greased and lightly floured baking sheet.  Bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees and continue to bake 30-35 minutes more, until the loaf is brown on top and sounds hollow when tapped.  Place the loaf on a wire rack and cool for 30 minutes before slicing.  Makes about 12 slices.

Update:  The bread was browning too quickly, so I covered the top with foil after turning down the oven temperature to keep it from getting too dark.  Also, I found that the loaf was done after 20 minutes at 400 degrees.  Next time I will not use flour on the greased baking sheet, as it gives off an unpleasant burnt smell as the bread is baking (I may have use too much).  I could use cornmeal instead, or just use a greased baking sheet.

(Of course, since this is National Cake Day, I may want to try out this rich but simple recipe for Buttermilk Pound Cake today!)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

This 'n That Thursdays: Setting the Halloween Table

From Beaux R'eves

Last week I mentioned a couple of dining rooms that would be ideal for Halloween entertaining, so today I thought I would focus on setting the perfect table for a ghoulishly grand feast.  I am fascinated with the idea of a skull/skeleton/spider web theme this year.  First up is the "Bone China" Skull Dinner Plate:

This plate is nicely complemented by the "Bone China" Skeleton Hand Side Plate (left hand also available):

Beaded Spider Web Placemats would be the perfect background for the plates:

Add some Spider Web Print Napkins:

A Skull Flatware Set continues the bony theme:

Spider Web Tumblers and Bone Collector Rhinestone Wine Glasses complete the spooky setting:

And after dinner, serve espresso in these elegant Skeleton Espresso Cups:

The dining room table is now set, and not a moment too soon -- I think I hear the guests arriving!

Scene from "Night of the Living Dead" (1968)
(from Horror News)

Bone appétit!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wish List Wednesdays: Laura Zindel Dinnerware Sets

Halloween is fast approaching, and Vermont ceramic artist Laura Zindel has the perfect dinnerware for the occasion.  I happen to love the Tarantulas Dinnerware Set ($50 for a dinner plate) shown above.  Intricate and accurate line drawings of several tarantula species adorn these creamy white plates, and the artist's attention to detail makes them true works of art.  However, if spiders are not for you, perhaps you would prefer snakes:

Again, the artwork is amazing!  There is also an impressive beetle design:

For the squeamish, the Black Birds Dinnerware Set may be a more acceptable option:

Of course there are other equally attractive collections for those who love the artist's work but are not interested in a Halloween theme -- the Botanical Collection is downright traditional!  Be sure to check out the rest of Laura Zindel's ceramics, all of which are adorned with her unique and beautiful naturalist illustrations.  She has even created a special collection for West Elm perfect for the Thanksgiving table!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Terrifying Tuesdays: The Unknown Terror (1957)

From Wrong Side of the Art

I watched quite a few 1950s B-movie horror/science-fiction flicks when I was young -- they were very popular back in the day.  However, "The Unknown Terror" (1957) is one that I somehow missed.  I saw it for the first time this past weekend on YouTube (see below -- thanks, oracliberator71!).  It is typical of these sorts of movies, which were mass-produced on a restricted budget and limited time schedule.  It is not a great movie, but it is also not bad, and I am a bit surprised that I never saw it before.

The movie begins with an explorer in a spooky cave, and not unexpectedly something sinister happens.  We then cut away to a bar scene, where the patrons are watching a news report about the missing explorer, who disappeared "somewhere south of America".  We learn that the man, Jim Wheatley, was the brother of a wealthy man's wife, and her husband will stop at nothing to locate his missing relative.  Cut to a new scene, this time of a Caribbean calypso band (I kid you not!).  We are now at the home of the wealthy man and his wife, Dan and Gina Matthews (John Howard and Mala Powers).  Dan has invited two scientists over to hear the calypso band sing an unusual song he heard "on the shores of the Caribbean" which could provide a clue to the missing man's whereabouts.  There is also an Indian named Raoul at the gathering, brought in as an interpreter of the song.  But before the song begins, one of the patrons from the bar scene shows up at the door, asking Mrs. Matthews to let him speak to her husband.  It turns out that this man, Pete Morgan (Paul Richards), was a well-known explorer until he suffered an injury to his leg which disabled him.  Said injury occurred thanks to Dan Matthews, so when Pete learns that Dan will be conducting another search for Jim Wheatley, he wants to go along to prove he can still do the work he was so good at before his accident.

Dan initially puts him off but lets Pete join the group as they listen to the strange calypso song.  After the band finishes, Dan asks Raoul to tell them the meaning, but the latter is suddenly reluctant to do so, saying that it would be best for all concerned if he does not.  However, one of the scientists concludes that the song alludes to a cave called "Cueva Muerte", or "Cave of Death", supposedly near the village of Raoul's tribe, where human sacrifice took place.  Dan immediately decides that Jim must be in this cave and could still be alive, so he asks Raoul to take them to his village.  Tempted by money, Raoul agrees.  Dan also decides that Jim's skills are needed as well, in spite of his bad leg, and agrees to let him come along.

Suddenly we find ourselves south of the border in Raoul's village.  Events begin to take place quickly now.  The villagers are unfriendly, Raoul disappears, and the visitors are sent on their way to the home of an American scientist who lives outside of town.  They meet Dr. Ramsey (Gerald Milton) canning fruit in his kitchen (yes, you read that correctly -- how appropriate for National Canning Day!), who sends his native assistant Lino to look for the missing Raoul.  Dr. Ramsey insists that there is no "Cave of Death" in the area except as the native Indians' concept of purgatory.  The doctor has been here a long time doing research on fungi, studying their antibiotic properties.  He became like a god to the natives after he cured an epidemic of smallpox.  The man is a rather unpleasant fellow who mistreats his Indian wife, Concha (May Wynn), which soon brings him into conflict with Pete.

A storm suddenly begins brewing, and so do terrifying events.  Mr. and Mrs. Matthews learn part of the grisly fate of Raoul, and Pete convinces Concha to take Dan and himself to a spot where underground "voices of the souls in purgatory" are heard.  Gina stays behind, which is a mistake.  Preparing to retire for the night, she catches sight of a gruesome being at the window, and is soon being pursued through the jungle by the creature.  Just in a nick of time, a couple of natives appear and kill the thing, although Gina is sure they are out to kill her.  Meanwhile, Dan and Pete hear the underground voices, then Gina's cries for help, and find her safe but terrified nearby, but not before a frustrated Pete succumbs to his leg injury.

I won't go into any more detail about the movie other than to say that there is indeed a "Cueva Muerte", the exploration of which leads to unfortunate consequences for some.  The story line is actually quite decent and the action is exciting, but the mysterious secret of the cave can be somewhat of a letdown to those who are used to sophisticated special effects.  Those of us who grew up with movies made before realistic computer-generated images are accustomed to less-than-perfect monsters, however, and some of us have learned to overlook their occasionally amusing appearance.

At the risk of spoiling the movie, the horror turns out to be a virulent fungus developed by the unpleasant scientist, which causes a few victims to become a sort of human/fungus hybrid with a violent nature.  Unfortunately, the nasty fungus bears a distinct resemblance to bubble bath, and some viewers may find it difficult to be terrified by soap bubbles.  Let me just add that, although the bubbly appearance of the fungus seems amateurish, it actually does rather resemble a slime mold.  In fact, if you read this little article by Scicurious, you may just change your mind about the terrifying aspects of the fascinating little organism, and develop a whole new respect for this movie!  (Well, maybe not the latter.)

Interesting Fact: The calypso band in the movie is led by Sir Lancelot, a popular calypso singer and actor who appeared in a number of movies, including a couple of Val Lewton horror films.

Gore Guide (0=none to 5=extreme): 0

Monday, October 22, 2012

Mysterious Mondays: "The Wind in the Rose-Bush" by Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman

"What makes that rose-bush blow so when there isn't any wind?"
(from The Literary Gothic)

"The Wind in the Rose-Bush" is an odd little ghost story from Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman.  The ghost is really not of primary importance in this tale -- instead it is the interaction of the two principal female characters that provides the eeriness.  Rebecca Flint is a Michigan spinster who has travelled to the distant town of Ford Village to retrieve her deceased sister's daughter from her brother-in-law's second wife.  Although the man died three years previously, Rebecca was only recently able to make this trip to collect her niece Agnes.  Upon meeting the second Mrs. Dent, Rebecca states her purpose, and is alarmed when the other woman has a violent reaction.  However, Emeline Dent recovers herself, claims that she is subject to spells, and invites Rebecca into the house.  On their way in, Rebecca notices a rose-bush with one perfect red rose on it, but is startled when the bush begins to shake violently, even though there is no wind.  Mrs. Dent brushes the odd incident off, and the two women enter the house.

Finding that Agnes is not home, Rebecca asks if she will be returning soon, to which Mrs. Dent calmly replies that the girl is visiting a dear friend and neighbor, Addie Slocum, and it would be hard to say when she will return.  Mrs. Dent invites Rebecca to stay for as long as she likes until Agnes is ready to travel.   The two women wait for the girl, but she does not return, and an exhausted Rebecca finally goes to her room without seeing her niece.  The next morning Mrs. Dent informs her that Agnes spent the night with the Slocums, and later Rebecca is told that the girl went on an out-of-town trip with Addie.

Again and again the return of Agnes is delayed, for various reasons according to Emeline Dent.  Rebecca is flabbergasted by these excuses, but also puzzled by a series of mysterious occurrences at the house, such as the appearance of unusual objects, music in the middle of the night, and the sudden scent of roses in rooms, not to mention the continued inexplicable quaking of the rose-bush by the front door.  Mrs. Dent's reaction to all of these things is odd, but she continues to act as if nothing out of the ordinary is happening, which confuses Rebecca even more.

Then Rebecca receives notice that the cousin who is staying at her house while she is away has injured herself, and Rebecca must return immediately.  Still young Agnes is not home, and she is forced to leave without her niece.  The exasperated woman tells Mrs. Dent in no uncertain terms to send the girl on alone to join her in Michigan, but leaves not at all reassured that this enigmatic woman will follow her instructions.  Sure enough, Agnes does not arrive, and more unusual still, she finds her cousin quite healthy and at a loss to explain the urgent summons added on to her letter.  Rebecca, who has fallen ill upon her return home, cannot travel, so she writes to Mrs. Dent, the Slocums, and the postmaster of Ford Village requesting information about Agnes.  The only reply she receives is a short note from the postmaster, but the revelations in this letter reveal dark secrets that until now have only been suspected by Rebecca Flint.

This ghost story is unusual in that the ghost plays only a very minor role, and one that is not especially scary.  More frightening than the specter is the second Mrs. Dent, a strange and unsettling woman who deliberately plays a cruel and unnecessary cat and mouse game with the unsuspecting Rebecca Flint, but who ultimately seems doomed to suffer in slow but relentless degrees from the consequences of her own actions. In this tale, what is not revealed is more horrifying that what does come to light, a technique which the talented writer is quite adept at employing.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Foodie Fridays: Banana Buttermilk Muffins

Photo by Chickee

It's not easy using up an entire half-gallon of buttermilk! Fortunately there are quite a few recipes out there, especially for baked goods, that include buttermilk as an ingredient.  Banana Buttermilk Muffins are delicious for breakfast, quick and easy to prepare, and have the added bonus of being a relatively healthy choice.  These did not last long at our house, and if you try them you will find out why!

Banana Buttermilk Muffins

1 C. flour
3/4 C. whole wheat flour
1/2 C. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 C. low-fat buttermilk
1 C. mashed ripe bananas
2 T. canola oil
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Combine the first five ingredients in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the next five ingredients.  Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and stir until just blended (do not overmix).  Spoon the batter into greased muffin cups, filling about three-quarters full.  Sprinkle the nuts over the tops.  Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean.  Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely.  Makes 12 muffins.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Current Events: Binders Full of Women

Well, I really did try to avoid bringing up this topic, but Governor Romney's choice of words at the second presidential debate was so hilariously inappropriate I just can't stop laughing, so here it is!  I suppose this is because his comment makes me think of a scene in the 1966 Rosalind Russell/Hayley Mills movie "The Trouble with Angels", where a naive young nun is sent out with a whole host of young novices to outfit them with brassieres, which she calls "binders".  While I seriously doubt Mr. Romney had this particular definition in mind, the thought of "binders full of women" in the Massachusetts governor's office becomes pretty risqué to those of us who remember this comedy (and I'm obviously one of many who do!).

And then I am also reminded of that classic joke about Prince Albert in a can (see a rather funny scene with Tim Curry from the 1990 Stephen King horror movie "It" if you need to refresh your memory -- this is a great movie for Halloween, by the way).  I can just picture Romney's campaign headquarters receiving this message:

"Governor Romney, does your campaign office have binders full of women?  Well, if it does you really need to let them out!"

Oh dear, combine the two images and this whole scenario could really get out of hand!

Okay, I've had enough fun at the Republican candidate's expense.  The important thing to remember is the general consensus that Governer Romney commanded the first debate, while President Obama took charge in the second.  Next Monday we will find out who performs better in the third and final one, and then it is on to the election in November.  Don't forget to vote!

This 'n That Thursdays: Not-My-Style Dining Rooms

I am usually very open-minded when it comes to design.  After all, everyone has their own individual style, and I think that is a good thing -- it keeps life interesting!  I do have very definite tastes of my own, but almost always find positive aspects to any type of décor.  Every once in a while, however, I come across something that... well, let's just say I could never have the look in my own home.  It is not necessarily bad design, but for me it just hits all the wrong style notes.  Recently I saw a few photos of dining rooms that are truly not my style.  Take a look for yourself and you be the judge -- is it just me, or are these rooms the sort that only a select few could own?

First up is this dazzling display of reddish pink and white:

From Born Again Redneck's Daily Duh!

Or perhaps I should have said dizzying display!  I really want to like this one -- I love stripes, and the pink is very close to red, which is my favorite color.  I even appreciate the bold color jolt of the yellow buffet in the corner.  But honestly, to me it looks as if a candy cane factory exploded in this room.  The stripes are overpowering and the color scheme just makes my head spin -- I would have to eat with my eyes closed if I were to dine in this room!

The next dining room has a similar problem:


This room isn't so much dizzying as it is confusing.  The table and chairs have a Far East feel to them while the mirrors, pendant light, and picture look more Middle Eastern or Indian.  I am afraid that East meets East just doesn't work for me (nice table setting, though!).

Unlike the previous two rooms, the next dining room is not too hard on the eyes, but it is also not conducive to a pleasurable dining experience:

From Born Again Redneck's Daily Duh!

The lack of color makes this space feel rather somber.  There are only two dining chairs, and both face a wall rather than each other, which sets a rather unfriendly tone, almost like being put in the corner for punishment.  And then there is that gigantic alligator picture -- I would feel extremely uncomfortable consuming a meal under the stare of that beady reptilian eye.  I think one would have to be a dedicated herpetophile to appreciate a room like this!

And speaking of eyes, I've mentioned before that I have a phobia about being gazed upon by nonliving eyeballs.  The alligator orb above is bad enough, but for me the dining room below would be the ultimate nightmarish experience:

From The Caledonian Mining Expedition Company

The bird cage on the table is just wrong, and the animal heads are creepy, but that huge portrait of an unsmiling woman with the blank and unblinking stare would send me scurrying from the place.  In fact, I think this would be the perfect Halloween dining room.  Hmmm, come to think of it, just set out some spooky Eyeball Appetizers,  Eyeball Subs, Eyeball Cake Pops, and Blueberry Rickety Eyeball Punch and you could have yourself a delightfully frightful Halloween celebration here!

So what do you think?  Could you live with any of these spaces, or do you share my opinion that these dining rooms are hard to love?  (No offense to the homeowners, of course -- I just don't happen to share their tastes!)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wish List Wednesdays: Lavender for Your Linens

I have always been a big fan of lavender.  I would fill my house with its fragrance if I could, and a good place to start would be in closets and dresser drawers.  The Lavender Drawer Liners (six sheets for $22) shown above and the Lavender-Sachets-by-the-Yard (eight sachets for $25) shown below would do the job perfectly.  Lavender also repel insects, which means that it will prolong the life of your fabrics as well as imbuing them with a heavenly scent.  I will certainly be adding these products to my home soon!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Terrifying Tuesdays: Night Monster (1942)

"Night Monster" (1942) is one of the horror movies I remember seeing as a teen, and it scared me silly at the time!  It has all of the classic horror movie essentials -- an eerie old mansion in a spooky swamp setting, a rich invalid patriarch and his unstable sister, the sinister butler and devious housekeeper, a mysterious foreigner with an unusual influence in the household, a series of unexplained murders, and something strange that roams after dark.  And then there is the curious incident of the frogs -- why do they suddenly stop croaking at odd times of the night?

Wealthy Kurt Ingston (Ralph Morgan) has invited three prominent physicians to stay at his mansion, hinting at a generous donation to their various causes.  Dr. Phipps (Francis Pierlot), Dr. Timmons (Frank Reicher), and Dr. King (Lionel Atwill) just happen to be the doctors who were unable to halt the crippling disease which made Ingston an invalid.  Psychiatrist Lynn Harper (Irene Hervey) is thrown into the mix when Ingston's sister Margaret (Fay Helm) asks the doctor to come and evaluate her sanity.  On her way to the mansion, Dr. Harper's car breaks down, and she starts to walk.  She hears a terrified scream and hurries back toward her car, but fortunately the Ingstons' neighbor and friend, mystery writer Dick Baldwin (Don Porter), happens to drive by and offers her a ride.  They are admitted to the house by butler Rolf (Bela Lugosi) and meet wheelchair-bound Ingston, his insolent chauffeur Laurie (Leif Erickson), and the enigmatic Agor Singh (Nils Asther).  On the way to dinner, Dr. Harper is accosted by housekeeper Miss Judd (Doris Lloyd) in a less than friendly manner.

Dinner proves to be a rather uncomfortable affair as otherwise affable host Ingston subtly reproaches the three doctors he invited to the house.  Events become even more complicated after the meal when Kurt Ingston reveals that the recipient of his donation will be Agor Singh, who employs mystical mental powers to perform unimaginable feats.  Singh even demonstrates his remarkable occult ability to the assembled party.  Meanwhile, a former maid at the mansion goes missing and is found by the town sheriff, dead of strangulation with a puzzling pool of blood nearby.   The stage is now set for the tragedies and thrilling climax which follow.  Suffice it to say that good eventually triumphs over evil, and the hero gets the girl, as is the way in any classic horror film.

Turner Classic Movies channel is currently presenting a series of movies dealing with the topic of disabilities.  I have a feeling that "Night Monster" is not included in their lineup.  What a shame, since this film depicts one of the most unique treatments for a disability I have ever seen!  You can see what I mean by watching the movie yourself on YouTube (see below).

Interesting Fact: Veterans of the horror genre Bela Lugosi and Lionel Atwill are given top billing in this movie, even though both have only minor roles.

Gore Guide (0=none to 5=extreme): 0

Monday, October 15, 2012

Mysterious Mondays: "The Shadows on the Wall" by Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman

"'What is that?' he demanded in a strange voice."
(from The Literary Gothic)

Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman's short story "The Shadows on the Wall" is a dark tale of strange deaths and even stranger supernatural happenings.  Four siblings have gathered for the funeral of a fifth, one of two brothers named Edward Glynn who has died suddenly and mysteriously.  The other brother, Henry, a physician, has pronounced his death a natural one, but the three sisters, Caroline, Rebecca Ann, and Emma (now Mrs. Stephen Brigham), are not so sure.  While preparing for the funeral, the sisters carry on a stilted and fearful conversation.  It is apparent that something is on their minds, but that they cannot bring themselves to discuss it.  However, from what is left unsaid as they speak, it becomes clear that the three women suspect foul play in the death of their brother, and that they feel their other brother may be the perpetrator.

But the suspicious death of their brother Edward is not all that is on the minds of Caroline and Rebecca Ann.  As evening approaches and lamps are needed, Rebecca is asked to bring a light into the study which the women are occupying.  She is strangely reluctant, but the more forceful personalities of the other two sisters finally compel her to do so.  She is told to place the lamp in the middle of the room, and upon doing so, a bizarre supernatural phenomenon is revealed.  How the sisters cope with this event, and the reaction of their brother Henry when he discovers it, lead to a terrifying conclusion for this story.

Once again Freeman's skill as a writer paints a picture of sturdy New England women coping with harrowing situations, this time both real and supernatural, in their own unique way.  In fact, it almost seems as if the women are more willing to face the supernatural occurrence of the shadows on the wall, frightening though they are, than the real-life horror of fratricide.  While not overtly scary, an unsettling feeling of apprehension and unease permeate this tale from start to finish, and one has to wonder how the hapless sisters left behind will cope with the shades of two brothers who seem destined to spend a passive yet defiant eternity together.

"'Oh, my God,' gasped Mrs. Brigham.  'There are -- there are two shadows!'"
(from The Literary Gothic)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Foodie Fridays: Whole Wheat Buttermilk Quick Bread

From Everyday Food Storage

The buttermilk saga continues!  In my quest for recipes with buttermilk as an ingredient to use up the bottle my husband mistakenly purchased, I found this one for Whole Wheat Buttermilk Quick Bread.  The bread is super tasty and since it is not sweet you can even use it for sandwiches.  It makes excellent breakfast toast with some butter and a little jam if you like.  Since this is a quick bread no kneading and rising are required, so it is quite simple to make.  The next time you are in the mood to bake, why not give this recipe a try?

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Quick Bread

2 C. whole wheat flour
1 C. flour
1/2 Tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 T. sugar
1/2 C. chopped pecans
2 T. butter, melted
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 1/3 C. buttermilk

Combine the first six ingredients.  Stir in the remaining ingredients, mixing well but not overmixing.  Pour into a greased loaf pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and cool slightly, then remove from the pan and cool completely.  Makes one loaf.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

This 'n That Thursdays: A New Color for Fall!

Just in time for Halloween, a creepy new color has burst upon the scene in the fashion world -- oxblood!  This fabulous color with the frightening name is a gorgeous shade of deep red with brownish/purplish undertones.  I remember it mainly as the color of some sturdy outdoor Asian ceramic pots which have been around for a while, such as this one:

From SFGate

Now apparently this color is the darling of the Fall 2012 fashion runways:

From College Fashion

From Her Campus Emory

From Thrifty Tyra

As you can tell from these runway photos, oxblood is an especially popular color for leather.  This means that home furnishings in this handsome shade of red should be showing up in interior design much more frequently, in addition to paint and even tile options for this color:

Oxblood red front door from Houzz

Oxblood red walls from Home Interior Design Themes

Oxblood red powder room from Houzz

Classic oxblood red garden stool from Gump's

Contemporary oxblood red leather chair from

Oxblood red leather club chair from

Classic Chesterfield sofa in oxblood red from Chesterfields in Lincoln Limited

Contemporary sofa in oxblood red leather and zebrawood from 1stdibs

I could go on and on with this, but I'm going to stop now since my post is getting way too long.  I especially love the contemporary sofa above, and oxblood red may just be my new favorite fall color -- in fact, I think it would look lovely with my favorite fall color from last year called butternut.  I can't wait to see more ideas for adding this lovely red shade with the scary name to my own home!