Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Hallowe'en-An Irish Recipe and Some History

When most people think of Halloween the images that come to mind are from the last century when the Holiday really took off.

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However the roots of Halloween are much older.  Many folklorists believe that the origins of the Holiday lie in Celtic harvest festivals, such as Samhain, which marked the end of the harvest and the beginning of the dark half of the year.  It was believed that at this time  spirits and faeries could walk freely through the world.

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 It was also believed to be the one night of the year when the spirits of the dead could return to their earthly homes.   Families would set an extra place at the table for their departed relatives. 

 As time passed the pagan origins mixed with the modern Christian culture of Ireland and prayers for the dead became a part of the Holiday.  The old belief that faeries walked the earth evolved into the custom of dressing up in costumes and going house to house.   The importance of gourds and pumpkins in the harvest festival as well as the belief in evil spirits being about lead to the custom of carving pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns.
Painting Depicting a Traditional Irish Halloween Celebration

Halloween's Irish origins make it the perfect time to make Colcannon a mashed potato and cabbage dish that is often served on Halloween.  One popular game was too hide rings and other charms in the mash so that the diner could divine their future from them.    I didn't hide any charms in mine but Colcannon is absolutely delicious and enough of a treat in its self.  Here is the recipe I used:


5 large russet potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 stick butter, cut in pieces
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup milk
1 head of green cabbage, cored and coarsely chopped
1 lb thick cut bacon
1 small bunch scallions (green onions) sliced

 Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil for the potatoes and at the same time bring a second pot fitted with a steam basket to boil for the cabbage.  Boil the potatoes until tender, about 20 minutes.  Steam the cabbage about 5 minutes until somewhat softened, but still crisp.  Set the cabbage aside.  Mash the potatoes and stir in the butter and milk.  Season with salt and pepper.  Set aside while you cook the bacon. Heat a skillet over medium high heat and fry the bacon until crisp and transfer to a plate to cool.   Pour of all but 1 tsp of the bacon fat from the skillet and fry the scallions in it briefly.  Chop the bacon once it has cooled and stir into the potatoes along with the cabbage and the scallions.  (Note: you can make this in advance just transfer it to a casserole or dutch oven and reheat in a 300 degree oven until warmed through.)

  Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 25, 2013

A Walk in the Park Vintage Outfit Post-Late 30's Dress and Hat

I used to wear vintage only for special events, but recently I've been thinking why wait?  Isn't all of life  a special event?  I mean we only get one go at this.   With this photo 

as some inspiration I decided to get a bit dressed up in a late 30s dress and hat from Adeline's Attic on Etsy for a walk in the park with my husband and dogs.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Thoughtful Thursday-Ten Vintage Halloween Reads Available on Kindle for Under Three Dollars

Just as Judy demonstrates in the above picture an October evening is the perfect time to cuddle up with a spooky read and a furry friend.  One of the most wonderful things about my beloved Kindle Fire is there are so many vintage reads available for free or close to free, and Halloween appropriate reads are no exception.  Here are ten ghostly kindle reads availble for free or close to free all of which make excellent October reading.

1) Dracula by Bram Stoker Available for Free

The grand daddy of all Vampire stories and one of the most popular novels ever written this is a total Halloween reading essential.  Those who are only familiar with the many cinematic re-creations of the uber-vampire, may be a bit surprised by Stoker's depiction of the monster as a repellant creature possessing little charm.  Still this a fast paced novel, one of the best adventure stories ever written in my humble opinion.  While depictions of woman are quite outdated its much more contemporary then many other novels of its retains plenty of appeal for modern readers.  

2) Frankenstein by Mary Shelly Available for Free

 Admittedly I'm more of a Dracula fan and in the past I thought I preferred the story of how Shelly created her famous monster then I do the actual novel.    However, upon re-reading the book with this free kindle addition I realized that its a much more complex story then its cinematic re-creations or the popular impression of it is.  The monster is the hero, not the villain, and the story to me seems to be about the importance of loyalty.  Frankenstein, the scientist, is the real monster, abandoning his helpless creation when he needs him the most.  Still this is a much more dated read the Dracula, a good thing for some vintage fans I'm sure, and those looking for a traditional horror adventure story might be disappointed.

3)  Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan (Illustrated) Available for $0.99
This Gothic novella pre-dates Stoker's Dracula and was a major influence on his masterwork.  It told in the first person and narrated by an isolated young woman who falls under the hypnotic spell of a charming and beautiful female vampire whose preference is for female victims.  Much has been made of the lesbian sub-text, not much of a sub-text really as its rather central to the plot, and its true the Carmilla is one of the first vampires who inspires a strong sexual attraction in her victim making her as much the pre-cursor of the modern sex crazed vampires as Dracula is.  Another nice feature of this addition is its Gothic illustrations.

4) Edgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales and Poems (Illustrated) Available for $0.99
One of the most quintessentially American writers Poe was a master of the short story and is widely considered to be the inventor of the detective genre.  Poe was a prolific writer, being one of the first American writers to try to support himself on writing alone which had mixed results, and his many works include mysteries, science fiction, and poetry.  Of course he is best remembered for his Gothic tales of terror, which have for better or worse eclipsed his other works.  Any of Poe's masterful short stories make a wonderful Halloween read.

5) Dracula's Guest by Bram Stoke Available for Free

This collection of short stories, the title story being of course about Stoker's most famous creation, was published post-humously by Stoker's wife, who wrote a short but moving forward.  Each of the stories has a creepy Gothic atmosphere and demonstrates Stoker's gift for moving a plot along.   The best of the stories is title one, but they all make interesting reading.

6) Varney the Vampire: Or The Feast of Blood by Thomas Presskett Prest Available for Free

 I confess that I have not read this work in its entirety, though I have it on my kindle and have perused sections, in my defense its 886 pages long!!!  Varney was created to appeal to the masses and his adventures were published in penny dreadful pamphlets chock full of plenty of over the top Gothic drama.  A major influence on Stoker and other authors of later Vampire works this makes an interesting read for those who want to learn more about the tastes of readers during the Victorian Era. 

7) The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (Illustrated) Available for $0.99

This classic creepy mystery about two children, their governess, and possibly some supernatural servants stuck in an isolated English manor house is a nearly perfect example of the haunted house story, with some major twists.  It is a favorite of academics due to its wonderfully ambiguous nature.   The question of whether or  not the ghosts in the story or real, or simply the product of the governess imagination has been debated for decades.

8) The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Illustrated) Available for $0.99

 This classic Holmes mystery about an investigation into the origins of possibly supernatural beast is probably the best known of Doyle's tales.  Its been adopted for the screen dozens of times and its meeting of the supernatural and the scientific, in the form of the ghostly dog and the utterly pragmatic Holmes remains popular to this day.

9) The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson Available for Free

This is another classic  that I confess I have yet to read.  Though of course everyone is familiar with the concept of the dual nature of humanity embodied in a civilized man, with a violent alter ego.

10) H.P. Lovecraft The Complete Collection Available for $2.99

 The most modern author on  my list Lovecraft completed most of his writing during the 1920s and is a decidedly divisive figure with as many detractors as fans.  Largely unknown during his lifetime, he published his work in cheap pulp magazines while holding down a succession of odd jobs.   His depressing and down trodden life influenced his work.  Both of his parents suffering from mental illnesses and died in institutions,  and he suffered his own breakdown in highschool, and an early death at age 47.  Intensely xenophobic and paranoid his stories deal with sub-human creatures, forbidden knowledge, and insanity.   There is no triumph of good over evil in his work, instead Lovecraft's personal terrors pervade his fiction making for a disturbing, but compelling, read.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Halloween Cheese Cake

I just love the old Halloween pin up photos:

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 The models in these old cheesecake pictures just look so cute and sassy rather then simply cheap.   Speaking of cheese cake that brings me to this weeks Tasty Tuesday recipe.  Its a work in progress and I have to admit I'm  not completely happy with it.  I adapted it slightly from the Smitten Kitchen website and I think I may have erred in combining the pumpkin and chocolate.  Where I to make these again I would try making a straight dark chocolate brownie batter and adding a bit of pumpkin to the cheese cake swirl to more closely approximate the flavor of pumpkin cheese cake.  Oh well there is always next year:

Pumpkin Brownies with Cream Cheese Swirl

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar 

 4 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups solid-pack pumpkin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg 

Cream Cheese Swirl
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese 
3 tbsp sugar
1 egg 
1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.   Whisk the flour, baking powder, cayenne, and salt.  Melt the butter and chocolate together in the sauce pan over low heat.  Whisk to combine.  Remove fromt he heat and whisk in the sugar, vanilla extract, pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Next, whisk in the flour mixture.   In an electric mixer beat together the ingredients for the cream cheese swirl.   Line a baking pan with parchment and spoon the batters in alternating between the pumpkin brownie mixture and the cream cheese.  Then swirl with a butter knife.  Bake 35 to 40 minutes until a tester comes out clean.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Vintage Outfit Post-Channeling Clara Bow

I've written before about how my favorite 1920s vintage style icon is the lively and charming Clara Bow.  

To my mind the most iconic Clara Bow look involves some sort of nautical blouse 

and a beret

An outfit combining both of these elements has been on my vintage wish list for some time and thanks to Mod Cloth, Time Machine Vintage on Etsy, and Adeline's Attic on Etsy I have managed to create a Clara Bow-Esque look and it is one of my favorites.  Lately I've been wearing it everywhere. 

 The shoes, blouse and tights are from Mod Cloth which is a great resource for reasonably priced vintage inspired items that mix well with more authentic vintage.   I have also always found their customer service to be very helpful.  My hat is an actual 1910s beret from Etsy shop Adeline's Attic and my skirt is a 1930s reproduction from Time Machine Vintage.   I particularly love the hat as its one of the older items in my wardrobe and when I wear it I often wonder about the women who owned it before me, I hope she had as much fun wearing it as I do. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Almost Wordless Wednesday-Midnight at The Greenwood Cemetary

In June my husband and I attended a midnight showing of the play the Spoon River Anthology at the historic Green Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.  The play was nice but the real thrill was seeing the eerily beautiful cemetery by moonlight.   I took a few pictures that I thought were were appropriate to share in October and I'm determined to go back for a day light stroll:

Monday, October 14, 2013

Vintage Outfit Post-1930s Style For a Wedding

A few weekends ago my husband and I were lucky to attend the wedding of a dear friend of ours who we first met during our college days at the University of Buffalo.   Years ago she was a brides maid in our wedding and it was lots of fun to attend hers.  
Joyce is the one of my left.

 Since I rarely attend fancy events I wanted something dressy and vintagey to wear and the wonderful women at Time Machine Vintage on Etsy made me the absolutely perfect outfit.   A black 1930s style skirt, which she cleverly found a dog hair resistant fabric for, and pewter satin 30s style blouse.  I had originally wanted a burgandy blouse and she suggested pewter and was completely right.   I wore the blouse and skirt with long black gloves from ebay, a 1930s black crochet purse also from ebay, mod cloth shoes, What Katie Did stockings, and a pink feathered hair clip I got years ago on sale at anthropologie.  I really loved wearing this outfit, its probably my favorite outfit ever, hopefully I'll have another event to wear it to in the future.

You can't see the seamed stockings I am wearing as after the wedding I broke my I Phone and all the full length shots of my outfit were lost,  but I  have to say I really loved them.  I've worn cheaper seamed tights before and the seams never stayed straight but on the What Katie Did Tights they didn't twist at all.  I can't remomend them enough.

The wedding was at the Swan Club in Long Island with lots of pretty flowers about.

John on the club grounds

 The first ceremony was very nice but I failed to get a good picture of the bride as there were so many of the couples friends and loved ones in attendance.   While we were waiting I took this picture of John and I

 The couples dog Nacho was the ring bearer I really wish I had gotten a better shot of him

After the first ceremony there were two more a Korean tea ceremony, as the groom is Korean

Again I failed to get a good picture
 and a Chinese one to honor the brides heritage.

The Bride and Groom

 It was a very lovely and romantic wedding.

Me with the beautiful bride.  She looks just like she did years ago in college.

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