Thursday, October 31, 2013

All Hallows' Eve

My "Costume": Sugar Skull, Dia de los Muertos
For inspiration on how to do the makeup, see this post from Iris J
So, this is my favorite holiday of the year. You're not surprised, yes? Even though the wind whipped at our heels tonight, I love seeing our neighborhood lit up like a pumpkin, the houses glowing with an amber warmth. The leaves crunching under my feet. The flicker of the jack-o-lantern. The day reeks of fun. And chocolate.

Here are the kiddos' costumes this year:

For dance last night, Minnie Mice. 
Trick-or-Treat Costume #1: Night of the Living Dead Homecoming Queen ca. 1985.
Name: Zombina George
Trick-or-Treat Costume #2: The cutest little "Zom-bee" in town (she did her makeup herself). 
Next year, I've decided we are going to have one hell (he he he) of a Halloween Bash. Mark your calendars. A/J

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Random Mushroom Post

Random mushroom growing on an oak tree. Noticed on walk through the neighborhood. Had to be shared. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Deck the Halls (with Skulls, Tombstones, and Mice)

A quick little post today (those pesky papers I have yet to grade are in the way) showing you some of our favorite Halloween decorations here at Wonderland Manor. What is your favorite Halloween decoration in your haunted abode? A/J

The Rats of NIMH are camping out on our stairs. These are from the Martha Stewart Halloween craft line - on sale this week at Michael's for $1.99!!! (See Princess Sophie below)

Our spider and skull mantle. #idolikespidersandsnakes #andthatiswhatittakestoloveme #likeIwannabelovedbyyou
These look like two randy pumpkins, decorated with stick-on felt eyes, mustaches, goatees, and rhinestones, and a little yarn hair (from the Pumpkin Decorating Birthday Party we attended this weekend - so fun!!!). #sotwopumpkinsrollintoabar
Vintage Halloween cards (purchased at an auction) and framed. I'm not sure who wants to come in and stay, btw. A ghost? Mice?
Our black candy pumpkin, in case you missed her:). 
I can't wait for Trick or Treat Thursday night (the costumes are planned, the Jolly Ranchers are bought). Here's what I went as last year - Zombie Poison Fan ca. 1982 (See this old post for last year's Halloween party antics):

Funny story, I put Sophie down for a nap and got dressed, did my makeup/hair/etc. and then not thinking went in to wake her up from her nap. She freaked the freak out. Oops. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Thoughts on Plath the night before her birthday

Tomorrow afternoon, I am reading two of Sylvia Plath's poems at a commemoration event on her birthday at West Chester University's Poetry Center. It is rather hard for me to sum up, in a personal reflection, what this writer has meant to me over the years in a few sentences. Heartfelt as they may be, the words I truly want to say seem rather cliche: her work gave me the confidence - the power, if I may be so brazen - to believe in my own abilities, to say the hell with everyone else's expectations of what I should be, do, say, etc., and to just, in the end, be myself, whatever that may be.

I have decided to read two poems, "The Disquieting Muses" and "Mirror." And here's what I've decided to say. Perhaps it is cliche. But it is heartfelt. A/J

I chose to read these two particular poems because they have been two of the most meaningful to me over the years.  When I was younger, in my twenties, just beginning my work on Plath, they represented for me the subject position of the oppressed young woman, a girl trying to come into her own who was weighed down, drowned if you will, by all of the paraphernalia that adorned American girlhood and womanhood. I, like Plath, felt suppressed by my elders, by the expectations other people had for me, by my earlier successes that made future successes seem all the harder to achieve. Now, however, I can place myself within these poems in the subject positions of the stifling mother and the aging woman who sees the old hag rising out of the dredges of the mirror. When I was twenty, the mirror and all that it represented (judgment, failure, standards of beauty that I felt I couldn’t achieve) was what resonated most; now, in my late thirties, it is the woman who matters more, the woman in the poems who tries to navigate toward a self, all the while drowning in herself. What I love most about Plath’s work is that it grows as I grow, ages as I age, developing a whole new meaning as I develop into a different self. I wish most that Plath had afforded herself this same opportunity. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Rap Sheet

Here's what we are coveting, reading, humming, and generally loving this week at the Owl's Skull. TGIF! J/A

This post about the ridiculosity that is the Restoration Hardware Children's catalog from Suburban Turmoil is f*&}ing hilarious. That said, I still want everything in this French-chateau-chic room for my daughters. Shame on me. 
This printable from Vintage & Anchor Books about the phenomenon that is the ever-burgeoning library. On that note, I have decided just this year to purge all of those books that are not personally meaningful to me (resulting in the selling/donation of 30 bankers boxes of books). This was actually quite liberating. 
This Carpe Diem mug from Kate Spade shared by the Shabby Creek Cottage blog. My husband says that the other side of the mug reads "With your right hand, jerk."
This printable from I have always felt that the autumn's falling leaves ring in the New Year, not the rigid days of early January. 
I'm not sure what in the hell this pumpkin from Believe in the Magic of Christmas has to do with the birth of Christ, but I love it. 
God love Betty White. 

And Elvis in black leather.

Yet another reason why our kids should read.  From The Harry Potter Alliance.
This necklace, from the Etsy shop EnchantedWonderland
This sweatshirt from the Etsy shop NeenaCreates.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Laundry Monster

Yesterday, I decided to attack one of my home's dirty little secrets: the laundry room. This required a showdown with something looking roughly like this.

I was indeed afraid it was going to start talking to me. 
There was still dirty laundry under the humongous heap from our trip to Maggie's dance nationals. In July.

I loathe doing the laundry. I hate sorting it, being a slave to the time limits on the machines, folding it, sorting it again, trying to find somewhere to cram it when it is all clean. I feel like my entire married, maternal life has had, in the background, the annoying hum of those petulant machines. I've tried buying the lovely lavender smelling detergents, thinking that the allure of a pretty scent will make the task less aggravating. No such luck. I've even tried enlisting my husband to help out. He, in return, only washes his own clothes.

I would rather just buy new underwear. A/J

Oh, hell, at least I can laugh about it. And this is one of my favorite characters from my 80s childhood television addiction. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Five Little Pumpkins

From Brenna White
Today, a short little post to remind you of our favorite Halloween song for kids: "Five Little Pumpkins." A/J

Five Little Pumpkins (Tune: "Five Little Ducks")
Five little pumpkins sitting on the gate.  
The first one said, "Oh, my it's getting late." 
The second one said, "There are witches in the air."
The third one said, "But I don't care."
The fourth one said, "Let's run and run and run."
The fifth one said, "I'm ready for some fun."
Ooooo! Went the wind, and out went the light. 
And the five little pumpkins rolled out of sight!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Our Top Ten Favorite Spooky Songs

Here are 10 of our favorite creepy songs for the Halloween season. Enjoy! A/J

10. Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London" ... Ah - oooooooo, werewolves of London ...

9. "Coconut" by Nilsson Schmilsson. Who doesn't love Midnight Margaritas?

8. "Where Did You Sleep Last Night (Live, Unplugged)" by Nirvana. This version is perfection.

7. "Thriller" by Michael Jackson. Because the zombie dance scene is still killer. He he he ...

6. "Possum Kingdom" by the Toadies. "Make up your mind, decide to walk with me..."

5.  "Bad Things" by Jace Everett.

4. "Don't Come Around Here No More" by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Creepfest. And I love it.

3. "Midnight in Montgomery" by Alan Jackson.

2. "Black Magic Woman."  I like this version.

1. And .... drum roll please ... our absolute favorite. More cowbell please!!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Happily Ever After

These are the pictures, from my brother's wedding this past weekend, that make me believe in love. Love between a husband and a wife, a mother and her son, and two little girls who, hopefully, will always have one another's backs. Oh, and there's one funny one at the end for good measure. Because it about sums up my family:). A/J

Friday, October 18, 2013

Two Blessings: Tomorrow

My kind-hearted "little" brother is tying the knot tomorrow. For that occasion, two blessings - one Irish, one Slovak:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Keď budú svadobný pochod hrať,
   čo viac vám na cestu môžem priať?
   Nech šťastie je stále s vami.
   A čo život nemôže vám dať,
   to s láskou nahraďte si sami.
   Vykročte dvaja, ako muž a žena.
   Do daru si lásku dajte
   a do sŕdc vpíšte svoje mená.
   Prejde čas a prídu prvé vrásky
   a vy v očiach svojich detí
   nájdete nakrajší dar žijúcej lásky.

   As they're playing the Wedding march
   What can I wish to you on your journey?
   May happiness always be with you
   And what the life cannot give you
   Make up for with your love.
   Step out in two, as husband and wife.
   Give each other love as a gift
   And inscribe your names into your hearts.
   Time will pass and first wrinkles will show.
   Then, in the eyes of your children
   You will see the most beautiful gift of living love

The Shadow of Atlantis Blog Tour: Mother-Daughter Review & Author Interview (& a Giveaway!!)

The Shadow of Atlantis Blog Tour Button

This week at the Owl's Skull, we are hosting a blog-tour stop about the book The Shadow of Atlantis by Wendy Leighton-Porter. My daughter, Maggie, and I recently read the book together, an experience I enjoyed immensely. Seeing her grow and mature as a young reader and critic, being able to talk with her about books in a meaningful way, gives me an enormous amount of pleasure. And so, I thought it would be fun, since we read the book in tandem, to provide our reviews in tandem, hers first, mine second. Following our reviews, we have a short Q&A with the author, who describes her early and current influences, favorite books, and, most fun of all, whom she would most want to invite to a dinner party, if she could invite anyone at all. And last, but most definitely not least, there is information about the book series (where to purchase it, etc.) and a Rafflecopter giveaway - be sure to scroll all the way down:)!! Enjoy!

Maggie (Age 9): "The Shadow of Atlantis is pretty interesting. I like when Jemima and Joe's parents mysteriously disappear. Nothing is the same. One day, they decide they will look at this book that was their mom and dad's. The book seems to be glued together. Jemima has a jewelry piece that was her mother's. It has a golden chain with a mysterious key on it. They search the cover, and finally find a keyhole. The key around Jemima's neck fits just right. Then, the book starts to rumble and shake. It opens slowly. I like the mysterious book. It makes you want to keep reading because you don't know what's going to happen next. The book just makes me say ... 'Oh what's going to happen? Oh don't do that!' You should read it."

Jess/Alice (Age 36): "This book begins with a 'weird event': a terrified cat, Max, sees the shimmering mirage of an ancient city appear out of thin air and a groping hand reach out of the mist, searching for a missing key. We subsequently find out that the parents of ten-year-old twins Jemima and Joe, two of the main characters in the book, have seemingly disappeared into the mirage's ether, leaving their children to fend for themselves and solve the mystery of their disappearance. This is a fun middle-grade reader for children ages 7-10. Centering on the mysteries contained in an old book, The Shadows of the Past, that combines the interactive magic of the iPad with the old-world magic of the traditional supernatural, The Shadow of Atlantis requires both the characters and the children reading the book to engage with texts in order to figure out their methods and reveal their secrets (I could see the book transformed into an iPad version with lots of bells and whistles that would enhance the child's reading experience).  Overall, young readers will be enticed into Leighton-Porter's book just as Jemima and Joe are lured into the world of the book they discover."

Q&A with Wendy Leighton-Porter

  • What are some of your favourite books from when you were a child and did any of these inspire you when writing your books? When I was very small I was addicted to Enid Blyton’s “Five Find-outers” mystery series; I think they got me hooked on mystery stories and detective novels from a young age. I also enjoyed “The Bobbsey Twins” adventures. Then I progressed on to some of the classics, such as Anne of Green Gables and Little Women.  At the age of about 10 or 11 I started reading Gerald Durrell’s books, starting with My Family and Other Animals. That’s a very funny book and I’ve always loved anything which makes me laugh. I suppose that the Enid Blyton mystery stories may have influenced me, in that my books have a slightly old-fashioned air of innocence about them, coupled with mystery and adventure. I also hope that I manage to inject a note of humour into my stories via the character of Max.
  • What books are you reading right now? Philippa Gregory’s historical series, The Cousins’ War. I’ve just finished The White Queen and am currently in the middle of The Kingmaker’s Daughter. It’s partly background reading, as I’m writing a book set during that period (War of the Roses - 15th century), and partly for pleasure as I love anything to do with history and that particular topic has always been one of my favourites.
  • Which authors have influenced you the most and how? My favourite authors all share one important attribute – the ability to make good writing look effortless. For me, and it’s an opinion shared by one of the finest novelists of the 20th century, Evelyn Waugh, the ‘Master’ of this art was P.G. Wodehouse. His lightness of touch and the ability to conjure a beautifully drawn scene with only a handful of words remain unsurpassed. A children’s author with that skill was Arthur Ransome, and to this day I remain spellbound by the magical world of Swallows and Amazons, the first book of his I read.
  • If you could invite any 5 authors to dinner who would you choose? Homer (the ancient Greek storyteller, not Homer Simpson!), the Latin poet Catullus, P.G. Wodehouse, Agatha Christie and Lindsey Davis.
  • What is your favorite book of all-time (adult)? I think this is the point where I’m supposed to choose something heavyweight and meaningful but, if I’m honest, I really don’t have just one favourite book. However, for a combination of intelligent writing, clever plotting and atmosphere, you’d have to go some to beat The Ghost by Robert Harris, one of the best novels I’ve read in recent years.

About the Book

Title: The Shadow of Atlantis (Shadows From the Past, Book 1)
Author: Wendy Leighton-Porter
Year Published: 2012
Publisher: Mauve Square Publishing
Pages: 196
Recommended Age: 8+
Summary (Amazon):
Ten-year-old twins Joe and Jemima Lancelot have no idea why their parents have disappeared, but a mysterious old book which had belonged to their father holds the answer… and so begins an unusual quest to discover the truth. Together with Max, their remarkable Tonkinese cat, and Charlie from next door, the children embark on an epic adventure, travelling back in time to the lost city of Atlantis. Once there, however, they soon run into problems. Can they save the people of Atlantis from the disaster which is about to destroy their land forever? And will they find their way back to the safety of their own time before it’s too late?

The Buzz

"Shadows of Atlantis is a well-written story with a collection of likable main characters, a solid plot line, snippets of educational facts about a historically important location and event, and, is filled with mystery, magic, and suspense. This book grabbed me at the prologue and had me hooked until the end." ~ Mother Daughter Book Reviews, 5 Stars

"... Shadow of Atlantis is an imaginative tale that will draw children in right from the get go. The characters are deftly and warmly established, and Wendy shows a sure touch in enabling these characters to interact in a fun but believable fashion, each playing their own part in the plot's development...." ~ 5-Star review from John C., Amazon US

"The author makes the legend of Atlantis (and also the story of the Minotaur in the second book) so accessible to kids and in such an imaginative way. My daughter loved the children's characters and also the comical, lovable cat Max and his ability to help the characters out during times of strife! We will be looking out for future books from this author for sure. A really enjoyable adventure for kids and highly recommended..." ~ 5-Star review from A. Bradshaw, Amazon US

"This story will draw any young reader in will keep them entertained and engaged. It is sometimes hard to find books that will keep children interested, often their subject matter is trivial and insubstantial, this is not true of The Shadow of Atlantis. My daughter can't wait for the next adventure..." ~ 5-Star review from Annaliese M., Goodreads


Shadow of Atlantis by Wendy Leighton-Porter

Amazon U.S. * Amazon Canada * Amazon U.K. * Book Depository

Great Deal!!

*** You can buy the all 6 books (electronic copies) in the series (The Shadow of Atlantis, The Shadow of the Minotaur, The Shadow of the Trojan Horse, The Shadow of the Pyramid, The Shadow of the Volcano, and The Shadow of Camelot) for only 99 cents each from Amazon between October 14 and 28, 2013. Get hooked on this great series NOW by clicking on the Amazon button below. *** Amazon Buy Button  

About The Author, Wendy Leighton-Porter

Wendy Leighton-Porter, Author
Dividing my time between homes in England and South-West France, I live with my husband Simon and our two beautiful Tonkinese cats. I spent 20 years as a teacher of French, Latin and Classical studies, but now write books for children instead of teaching them. The Shadow of Atlantis is the first book in a series of 15 planned time-travel stories, featuring 3 children and, unsurprisingly, a rather special Tonkinese cat. Having recently completed number #7, The Shadow of the Norman Arrow (coming soon!), I’m currently working on the eighth book in the series.

As I take my young readers on a magical mystery tour through the past, I’m also hoping that my love of history, myth and legend will rub off on them too. Personally, I’m enjoying the journey so much, I don’t ever want it to end! Why not come along with me for the ride?

Website * Facebook * Goodreads

The Shadow of Atlantis Blog Tour Schedule (2013)

October 14
October 15
October 16
October 17
October 18
October 19
October 20
October 21
October 22
October 23
October 24
October 25
October 26
October 27
October 28

*** The Shadow of Atlantis Blog Tour Giveaway ***

Amazon $50 Gift Card Prize: One winner will receive a $50 Amazon gift card or PayPal cash Contest runs: October 14 to November 5, 11:59 pm, 2013 Open: WW How to enter: Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by author Paul Hewlett and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions - feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com. a Rafflecopter giveaway MDBR Kid Lit Book Promotion Services - Button FINAL

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Rap Sheet

Here's what we are coveting, reading, humming, and generally loving this week at the Owl's Skull. TGIF! J/A

This printable from goodreads. I probably wouldn't put my head in a lion's mouth, but I would do other things. I'll be printing this and posting it in the playroom. 
This article on Malcolm Gladwell's theory, in his latest book David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, that it is better, sometimes, to choose to be a big fish in a little pond. Image Via
For your next old-fashioned soiree, these Disney-inspired playing cards
This Dios de los Muertos cake from the Hedgewitch Cooks
This is my kind of Disney World. 

Yet another great song from American Horror Story last night. 

This compilation of "Literary Fashions for Book Nerds" put together by Emily Temple over at Flavorwire. This amazing dress was custom-made for Claire Massey "from multiple copies of Angela Carter's Book of Fairy Tales." This, as they say, is a once-upon-a-time gown.
This list, from Lemony Snicket, of the "13 Passages from Children's Literature that Are More Dreadful and Shocking than They Initially Appear." BTW, if you didn't see Daniel Handler in his turn on Top Chef Masters, it is really worth watching. All of the chefs look at him, playing an accordion, like "Who the f*&$ is this kook?"

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Dracula in Whitby (with the Beatles)

The magical mystery tour is dying to take you away,
Dying to take you away, take you today ...
Photograph Via
While doing some research on Dracula in Whitby this afternoon, I came across this little video from 1977 of the British Dracula Society touring Whitby, and I just had to share. The announcer uses the phrase "higgledy piggledy" in the first few sentences, which made me very happy. Enjoy! A/J

Monday, October 14, 2013

Oddities and Curiosities: The Greene County Historical Museum

Victorian hair art, created from the strands of many generations of one family.  Just one of the strange and wonderful things to be viewed at the Greene County Historical Museum. 
I love when something is not obviously trying to be weird and wonderful and turns out, nevertheless, to be as weird and wonderful as can be. Yesterday afternoon, my daughters and I headed to the Harvest Festival at the Greene County Historical Museum, located in the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania. Housed in what was, for many, many years, a poor farm/insane asylum, which operated from the late 1860s until 1964 (and is supposedly haunted btw), the Museum now collects any and all artifacts that pertain to the history of the County. There is a Clockworks Room, a Railroad Room, rooms and exhibits devoted to the mining industry, the Union Army, birdhouses, medicine, printing, weaving, the evolution of the telephone and the trucker hat, Rain Day umbrellas. If you can name it, it's probably in the museum somewhere. The thing is, the museum seems to be curated by locals; there isn't the heavy-handed categorizing and curating you find in most museums. This makes the museum seem at once more authentic and whimsical ... and fun to explore (although it's probably not all that great for the preservation of the objects, I'll admit). Here's just a sampling of what you might find:

An owl, unlabeled. So I can't really tell you what kind it is. 
Mason Jars upon Mason Jars. Otherwise known as "Pinterest Heaven."
Cause nothing says "Welcome to the Doctor's Office" like a skeleton in a bowler hat. 
Medicine jars and antique medical instruments. 
One of the upcoming Halloween tours would be the perfect time to visit, because many of the mannequins on display are downright creepy. 
As are these Three Little Pigs puppets used in one of the local theaters. Stop looking at me, pigs.  
On the history of sound.
Waaaait a minute ... I think I had one of these. 
In the military room. Obvs. 

These were just stunning. 

Part of the fun is exploring the workhouse, which was originally a farm and was later transformed to accommodate the "inmates" of the poor farm. The architecture shifts from room to room, space to space, taking you on a journey of the building's evolution.
The former clockworks of the former County Courthouse. They will demonstrate for you how the machine actually works, if you ask. 
They were also demonstrating how this 18th-century loom operated yesterday, which was actually extremely interesting to learn more about (especially for a nine-year-old obsessed with the Rainbow Loom). 
A Commemorative Boy Scout quilt. 
An antique longhorn chair. Saddle up. It also seems to have a mustache.  
I always feel like, my wallpaper's watching me. Tell me is it just a dream? I swear I see an owl. 
If you live in the region of Southwestern PA, this place is worth a visit. Especially during late October, at one of the Society's frightful events (the Western PA Paranormal Hunters will share results of their investigation of the GCHS Museum and the W.A. Young Foundry on October 18th from 6-10 and the Museum will hold a Flashlight Fright Night on October 26th from 7-11). More information about these events can be found here. J/A