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Monday, October 28, 2013


The Family Ghosts

In honor of Halloween, I thought I would share with you three ghost stories. I love ghost stories and I guess I'm not alone with the number of ghost programs that are on TV these days. I swear if there was a channell devoted just to those, I'd watch. Just counting some what is available (and I'm sure I've missed several):

Dead Files (personal fav)
Paranormal State
The Ghost Inside My Child
Stalked By a Ghost
Attacked By a Ghost
The Haunted
The Haunting of
Ghost Hunters
Ghost Hunters International
My Celebrity Ghost Stories
Ghost Stories Caught on Camera
...and a lot more.

I'd like to share with you three of my family's ghost stories. Probably most in my extended family don't even know them. Some in my immediate family may not know them. I share them  because one of my pet peeves about so many of the above mentioned shows is that everything is very black or white. The fact of the matter is, we are all spirits. We are spirits incarnate (in the body) and those that have past out of the physical realm (or maybe never entered the physical realm) are disembodied (out of the physical body). Just like people we meet everyday, not everyone is good and not everyone is bad. I firmly believe that "spirits" are simply on a different plane and that it is probably a blessing we don't see them. There are plenty of people in the body I don't want to see everyday, let alone those that are dead.

Additionally in sharing this narrative, this is in no way trying to convince anyone who is a skeptic that ghosts exist. If that is where you are in your personal journey than far be it from me to change your perspective although I've always felt that the skeptic's path is a cowardly one. It's far easier to say something doesn't exist and walk away then to open one's mind to the possiblility. After all, I know that ultraviolet and infrared light exists. I know air exists. I can't see either with my naked eye.

The first story involves my grandmother (see Jenny's Homefront Strategy) when she was in her 20's. This was smack dab in the middle of WWII and like many of that time, her older brother was fighting in Europe. One night she woke up and felt his presence at the end of her bed. She didn't see him nor did she hear him, but she knew he was there. The next day, the family got the notice that her older brother Bill had been killed.

Fast forward to 1981. I was very lucky to have not only grandparents on both sides but great-grandparents. Great Grandma and Grandpa H were very much the center of our extended family and had been married for well over 60+ years. Great Grandpa H passed from this world. He lived a good long life, especially when you realized he was born in 1898. A year passed. My grandfather, the above Jenny's husband and GG H's eldest son had a second heart attack that landed him in the hospital. As we were told by my grandmother at the kitchen table up at the farm, Great Grandma H had been awaken by her dog Bengy barking in the middle of the night. GG H got up to turn on the light and when she did, she saw the ghost of her husband staring out the window. Now, keep in mind my Great Grandma H was a farmer's wife and not prone to flights of fancy and additionally, it was initially the dog that awoke her. But sure as you and I are on this planet at this moment, there was Great Grandpa H,  who had passed away a year ago, staring out the window. 

Now fast forward to a year ago, this is my own personal ghost story. My beloved cat Missy simply disappeared from sight for a week. This was totally unlike her. Missy was a wonderful cat and we had a very special bond. I always said that if Missy was a human she'd be me and if I were a cat, I'd be Missy. I found Missy hiding behind my bed. It was clear something was wrong so I took her to the vet. Two vets and an operation later, I had to make the horrible choice to have my much loved cat put to sleep. She had gotten to the point where she couldn't eat and breathe at the same time. We discovered that my furry baby had brain cancer and the tumour was actually pushing the palate of her mouth over her throat making her choose between eating and breathing. I was heartbroken. I still greive for this cat.

A year goes by. In addition to Missy, we had two other cats at this time, Tux and Tribble. We raised Tux from a kitten and she and my husband had a special bond. When we were choosing kittens, she walked right up to my husband as though to say, you're mine. Tux was very much a lady, who crossed her front paws when she walked. We loved her dearly. One day she came up to me and I was shocked to see how thin she had become. A vet trip and tests came back with a dire diagnosis, she had kidney disease. Kidney disease in cats doesn't get better. We bought her special food and thought for a while that she was doing fine. Then it became apparent that her kidneys were shutting down. It was horrible to watch and we felt like we were on a death watch but we had made the decision that, unlike poor Missy, Tux would die at home where her loved ones where and she felt comfortable. At least that was the plan. It finally became apparent that she was really suffering when she couldn't even jump on the bed and sleep with us like she used to or just sit without falling over. We made the horrible decision to take her to the vet and put her to sleep. She was 16 years old. (About 80-90 years old human years). 


I don't mind telling you that night I sobbed like a baby. My cats are my furry children. They are part of our family. In the middle of the night, I felt a cat walk up on my body and then proceed to walk between the bodies of my husband and myself. Now there are only two cats that walk between my husband and myself, Missy, who had been dead a year and Tux. Tribble sleeps at the head of the bed and will literally jump over my head to get to my husband. So, I assumed this was Tux and that somehow she made it on the bed from the floor where I had seen her lay. I reached down to comfort her and pet her, only.... there was no cat there. Then I felt my husband's hand come down to pet the cat. He had felt the cat too. The cat had bumped her head into his side just as both Tux and Missy did. I sat up. There was no cat there. I got up and turned on the light. Poor Tux was lying at the floor, really pretty much unable to move. She  just where she was when I went to bed. It was then I knew that it had been Missy.

So what is the lesson from these stories? Simply this; our loved ones want us to know that they are ok and that simply because they are out of the body doesn't mean that they ceased to exist. Additionally, the lesson of Great Grandpa H and Missy was that our loved ones come back for us at the end of our lives to take us to the next world. Missy came back for Tux. Her message to me was, "Mom, I'm ok. It's time for Tux to leave this world and I came back to take her back with me. It's ok, I'm here for her, you can let go." Great Grandpa H's and Jenny's brother was the same. Physical death hadn't ended their existence. They were still in existence and they were coming back to let their loved ones know this and with GG H's case, to help his son cross. To me, there is nothing "para" normal about this. It's very normal. It's called LOVE. I'm very comforted to know that when my time comes, those I've loved that have passed will meet me to take me to my next journey. And I think this is beautiful. Have a blessed Halloween.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fall on the Erie Canal

The canal is richly painted.

 Fall on the Erie Canal

Fall is my favorite time of year. It's like mother nature decided to get our her crayons and color each tree a different color. The trees haven't been that spectacular this year, but I thought I'd share some of the prettier views.

On the home front side, Fall also means crunch time. Fall reminds us with it's crisp air and falling leaves that winter is just around the corner. When I was a new homeowner, many moons ago, I had to real clue how to winterize my house and belonging for the winter so I thought I'd create a list for any newbie.

My neighbor's farm so pretty with all the trees!

  1. Make sure to schedule a heating inspection early.I typically schedule mine in July or August. Last year our life just got too crazy and I didn't call until September which netted me a heating inspection in December! The later you call, the more competition you are going to run into for premo spots. Call early so you'll have piece of mind when the temperatures plummet.

  2. Test out all your snowplowing equipment and make sure your car is ready to go.It is far easier to do this when it is warm than when it is cold. Make sure that you get your snow tires on the car, the car is clean and all the fluids are filled. 
  4. Put away your summer garden, wrap trees in burlap, cover delicate crops, and put up the snow fence.It is much more rewarding to put away the garden in the fall than to deal with slimy, rotten plants in the spring. You'll thank yourself for your due diligence. Small trees (1-3 years) should be wrapped in burlap and tied with twine. Ironically, trees die in the winter not because of the cold but rather because they dehydrate. Frozen water everywhere and not a drop to drink. Covering your crops with straw or hay will help them make it through the winter and the snow fence helps to break up the driving snow which can obliterate a driveway in no time fast.
  5. Drain outside hoses, close off faucets and drain them. Frozen water expands and if left inside the hose or God forbid the spout, you can be dealing with a broken pipe when the temperature outside is bitter. Not fun.
  6. Wash all your outside windows.You are going to be stuck inside for five to six months dealing with gray skies. Make those windows sparkling to let in as much light as possible.
  7. If you can't afford new windows and your windows are drafty, get a window plastic kit.Before we replaced many of the windows, our windows were horribly drafty. One window in particular had about a 1/4 of an inch of space between the two windows. If you can't replace a plastic kit that you attach to the window with adhesive tape and blow dry it taunt will help some.
  8. Now is the time to buy and plant winter hardy perennials. Now the growers are trying to get rid of them and its a great time to put them in the ground to get them acclimated before the cold. Be sure to wrap them as well in burlap before snow comes.
  9. Use all those fall leaves for compost. Put on your garden.
  10. Finish all painting projects and do fall cleaning.While its still warm enough to open the windows, finish all those painting projects and clean your house. I think it is so much more important to do a fall cleaning than a spring cleaning any day. Again, you're going to be stuck in this house for five to six months so you may as well make it clean while you can still air it out.
  11. Finally, enjoy the season. Towards that end, here is my carmel apples I made yesterday

Large baking apples like Granny Smith or 20 oz. for    


each person
2 TBSP carmel powder from carmel apple kit
2 crust Pie crust (see recipe in PIE entry)
Sliced almonds or walnuts (opt)
2 TBSP brown sugar
1 TBSP cinnamon
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup water

Core apples. In a small bowl, mix carmel apple powder, brown sugar and cinnamon. Place in the hole where the core was removed.

Roll out the pie dough and cut large squares to fit around your apple and wrap apple.
Place in a glass pan with high sides.

Meanwhile heat 1 cup of brown sugar with the 1/2 cup water in a saucepan until boiling. Once the sugar becomes dissolved and liquidity, gently pour over the pie encrusted apples.

Bake at 425 degrees (Fahrenheit) for 45 mins. Serve with ice cream

Monday, October 14, 2013

Wood, Warmth and For The Love of Things That Burn....


Laying In The Wood for Winter    

     Even though the days are still warm, the nights are beginning to hint that winter is around the corner so get prepared. Everything must be put to bed or put away before that first snowflake falls.

This week we lay in our wood for winter. Switching to woodstove heat over our oil burner is one of the biggest things we did in our homefront strategy. Heating with primarily the woodstove cut our heating bill almost in half. We typically go through four to five facecord of wood each season.

     I grew up with a woodstove. My father was brilliant enough to actually run the water through it to heat water in the winter. When the woodstove was going, we could make tea from the tap!  It was located in our basement and many a day after school my brother and I would discover that we had wood to stack. Don't tell anyone, but stacking wood is one of the chores I never disliked doing. I find the process a little like fitting a puzzle together and it affords a lot of meditative time.
Nothing like a quiet night in front of a warming woodstove!

     A woodstove heat is different than many others you may have encountered. It's a lot warmer in many regards.
We actually began our journey with the woodstove by getting a fireplace insert (LOPI, Liberty)  that not only provided heat during the winter, but actually juts out enough to be able to cook on the surface should the power or furnace go out. I chose a woodstove over a pellet stove for that very reason. A pellet stove, it was explained to me, requires an electronic start to get going. A woodstove is completely manual so should all electricty go out, you are still in good shape. The inital woodstove was supposed to heat the entire house, but we discovered it only heated about half way. So when some money came our way, we invested it in a second woodstove (Osburne) which is, admittedly, more decorative, but it's a focal point in a room we spend a lot of time in so it's justified. This is our primary stove and during the winter, we can get that thing up to 80 degrees! There is nothing better than turning out the lights after a long day of work and fighting the snow than to turn out all the lights and tv and simply watch the fire burn. The concept of keeping the homefire burning becomes instantaneously clear and comforting.
     To lay a good fire, you need to start with firestarters. Firestarters can be bought but they can be expensive. If you have some basic ingredients though, you can make yours anytime you need them. Here is how I do it:


Old muffin tin
Paper cupcake liners
Woodshaving (pet supplies) or sawdust
(Opt) drier lint
Canning wax and/or the remains of old candles.
A wax pitcher (available in any craft store)
A medium size pot and water

Watch Your Wax!

Lay down several layers of newspaper to protect your work surface.
Put you muffin tin on the paper and fill each slot with a paper muffin tin liner.
Fill with woodshavings, saw dust and optional drier lint if desired.

Meanwhile, get your water boiling in the pot. Once boiling reduce heat to med or med-high. Put in your wax pitcher (I bought mine at AC Moore with a 40% off coupon available on their website most weeks) and put in your canning wax or the base of your cancel jar to melt the wax. Keep an eye on your wax and be very careful. Some candle wax, especially the cheap ones, can ignite quickly. If this happens. DO NOT THROW WATER ON IT! Rather, smother the flame with a pot lid. I haven't had this happen while making firestarters but I used to put old candle jars on the woodstove and did have one of the cheap ones ignite so I speak from experience.
As it melts, carefully pour the melted wax into your prepared firestarters. I don't wait for the entire thing to melt because it would simply take to long. Fill each muffin tin so that all the woodshavings/sawdust/drier lint has been captured or imbedded in the wax. It's ok if it's not completely covered but it needs to be held in place by the wax. Let harden a couple of hours and pop out. Place in a convenient place.