Yearly Events

Friday The 13th New Year!

We start the year with a Friday the 13th in January! Curious to know what other events are being celebrated on January 13, I did some quick research and found a couple of events that could pair well with Friday the 13th.

Blame it on Friday the 13th:
National Blame Someone Else Day is observed on the first Friday the 13th of the year. Isn’t this the essence of Friday the 13th? If something goes wrong on this day blame someone or something else.

In fact, the inspiration for National Blame Someone Else Day is Anne Moelle from Clio, Michigan who appears to have done just that. The story goes that on the first Friday the 13th in 1982, Anne’s clock alarm didn’t go off which set in motion a day filled with late appointments. She spent the day making excuses and shifting the blame for being late. Her unlucky day supposedly inspired her to create this unofficial holiday.

The origins of this unusual observance are shrouded in mystery. Is the story true? Could it be that Anne is being blamed for creating a holiday that she didn’t create? Is Anne in fact a scapegoat used to mark a day on which people blame others for their troubles? That would be ironic! However, I’m not particularly inspired by a day dedicated to blaming others (even on Friday the 13th) so I’ve selected a couple of other January 13 special days to celebrate and added a Friday the 13th tweak.

Fun Ways To Celebrate:
Writing or reading dark and Gothic poetry would be perfect for Poetry Break Day, or you could wish for auspicious dreams to help Make Your Dream Come True this night, hoping that they don’t turn into nightmares! Speaking of nightmares, Mari Lwyd, a horse that comes back from the dead, is part of Welsh New Year festivities which are celebrated on January 13.

Another interesting event is Quitters Day which is celebrated on the second Friday in January and is dedicated to all those who have made New Year’s resolutions but failed to keep up with them. Research suggests that about 80% of people abandon their resolutions within two weeks of making them. So if you made your resolutions two weeks ago and have already forsaken them, Happy Quitters Day! As for me, I’ll be celebrating Friday the 13th by making New Year’s resolutions with a skeletal horse. I’ll probably be celebrating a belated Quitters Day in two weeks time. 🙂

Happy Friday the 13th!

A Beltane for Bram

Bram Stoker was born on the 8th of November 1847 making this Tuesday his 175th birthday!

This year Bram will share his birthday with a Full Moon in Taurus, a total lunar eclipse and Blood Moon. If that isn’t enough, the astronomical date for Beltane in the southern hemisphere, and Samhain in the northern hemisphere, will be celebrated on the eve of his birthday. Stoker’s most famous novel, Dracula, is a symphony of oppositions exploring life, death and rebirth. I think it is very fitting that Stoker’s 175th birthday falls on the eve of these most appropriate festivals.

To celebrate this very special birthday I decided to pay tribute to Bram’s Irish heritage by making an Irish milk punch called Scáiltín. It’s basically a spiced milk hot toddy. Milk and dairy are traditional foods/drinks used in both Beltane and Full Moon festivities which makes this a perfect drink for Bram’s birthday this year.

For the spices, I used pumpkin spice instead of the traditional ginger and cinnamon to add a bit of Halloween to the drink. If you don’t have pumpkin spice you can replace it with a 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger and a 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon. I’ve also added an optional toasted marshmallow as a reminder of the bonfires that will be burning on both sides of the globe.

Happy Birthday Bram Stoker!

Irish Milk Punch (Scáiltín)

Ingredients
(Makes one generous cup)
1/4 cup Irish whiskey
1 cup full fat milk
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin spice
freshly grated or ground nutmeg for serving
1 marshmallow for serving (optional)

Instructions
Warm the whisky and milk in a small saucepan over low heat. (Do not let the mixture boil).
Add the honey and pumpkin spice and whisk until bubbly and combined.
Pour into a heatproof mug.
Sprinkle with nutmeg.
Top with a toasted marshmallow if desired.
If you don’t have access to a bonfire, you can toast the marshmallow by spearing it on a fork and slowly turning it over a low heat on a gas fire until it is toasted to your liking. (Be careful not to drop it as it softens).

A Caped Crusader

October 20th is Bela Lugosi’s birthday. To celebrate, I’ve listed some interesting facts about the fascinating actor.

The Young Lugosi:
Bela was born Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó on October 20th, 1882 in Lugos, Hungary which is now Lugoj in Romania.

Bela chose Lugosi as his stage name to honour his place of birth.

Lugosi left home when he was 12 years old and did odd jobs before debuting on the Hungarian stage in 1902.

Lugosi played small roles in plays and operettas, performed in Shakespeare plays and also acted in silent films. Critics called him “the Laurence Olivier of Hungary”.

Lugosi eventually emigrated to the United States where he became famous for his portrayals of the vampire Count Dracula on both stage and screen.

Lugosi and Politics:
Lugosi fought in World War I in the 43rd Hungarian Infantry. Lugosi was wounded while serving at the Russian Front and awarded the Wound Medal.

Lugosi was a proud unionist and was interested in helping actors and theatre workers fight for better wages and conditions. Lugosi helped found the Free Organisation of Theatrical Employees. This organisation eventually expanded into the National Trade Union of Actors, one of the first film actors’ unions in the world.

Due to his union activities, Lugosi was forced to flee Hungary. He eventually made his way to America. Lugosi arrived in New Orleans as a crewman on a merchant ship. He then made his way to Ellis Island and became a naturalized U.S. citizen a few years later.

In America, Lugosi continued to fight for the rights of actors. Lugosi and fellow horror actor Boris Karloff, fought to improve working conditions and safety standards on film sets. They were both union organisers and charter members of the Screen Actors Guild.

Happy 140th Birthday Bela!

I hope these brief facts about a very complex person have inspired you to read more about Bela Lugosi. Here are some links:

Bela Lugosi Biography by Bela Lugosi Jr
Béla Lugosi: actor, union leader, anti-fascist
Anti-Fascist Role Models: Bela Lugosi
Dracula Goes to War – Bela Lugosi, WW1 and the Making of a Macabre Hollywood Legend
How Frankenstein and Dracula created a union
The Monsters Organize!

An Encounter With Red Pandas

International Red Panda Day (IRPD) is celebrated on the third Saturday in September which this year falls on Saturday the 17th. IRPD was created by the Red Panda Network (RPN) to highlight the issues endangered red pandas face in the wild such as habitat loss and illegal poaching. IRPD is observed around the world with special events and red panda themed events. Some zoos celebrate on different days, so check with your local zoo to see if they are doing anything and on what day. If you’re lucky enough to have a zoo that does red panda encounters, IRPD would be a perfect day to treat yourself to one of these special experiences.

In preparation for IRPD, I visited Billabong Zoo to have an encounter with not one, but two red pandas! Rato and Tito, two elderly red panda sisters, were very keen to have breakfast, so when they saw me enter their enclosure with a bowl, they didn’t waste any time and quickly climbed down the tree for treats. They were very polite as they waited while I fed each of them tasty bits of fruit in turn.

During the encounter I made eye contact with the beautiful elder girls and my heart swelled at how gentle they were. As I looked into their stunning red panda faces millimetres from my from own, I felt a connection with these very special creatures. They seemed to know that I needed healing as it has been a very difficult couple of years. I was feeling rubbed raw emotionally and spiritually.

Being in the presence of two seemingly old and wise red panda ladies, I felt a huge burden lift from my shoulders. As I stared into their happy little faces, an overwhelming sense of calm and balance coursed through me. For the first time in a long time I felt happy, positive and ready to face the challenges ahead of me. The road forward is uncertain, but with the promise of more red panda encounters in the future, I’m ready to start journeying again.

(from the world animal dreaming oracle by Scott Alexander King)

Sweet Tea For A Bloody Countess

August 21st is Elizabeth Bathory’s deathiversary. It’s also National Sweet Tea Day. When I realised this, I couldn’t help picturing Elizabeth sipping a sweet tea. Seeing as two of her epithets are the “Blood Countess” and “Countess Dracula”, maybe it isn’t sweet tea she is sipping.

Countess Elizabeth Bathory (born 7 August 1560 – died 21 August 1614) was a Hungarian noblewoman who was accused of torturing and murdering young girls. Bathory was eventually tried and convicted as a serial killer. She was imprisoned in her castle until her death. There is ongoing debate as to whether Elizabeth Bathory was a blood thirsty murderer or the victim of a witch hunt.

As a wealthy and influential landowner, there were many reasons to discredit her and take her land and power. This has led to questioning how the evidence brought against Bathory was gathered. Some testified that they had not seen her commit crimes but had heard stories about her while the eyewitness accounts from Bathory’s servants were mostly gained through torture. The enduring tales of her drinking and bathing in the blood of virgins to retain her youth appear to have been written after her death. Whether guilty or innocent of these crimes, Elizabeth Bathory has lived on in folklore, especially in vampire mythology.

And now onto something sweeter than blood – Sweet Tea!
National Sweet Tea Day is a day to enjoy the pleasures of a refreshing glass of iced sweet tea. The difference between sweet tea and iced tea is that sweetener is added to the tea at the time of brewing. National Iced Tea Day is celebrated on June 10.

To celebrate National Sweet Tea Day, I’ll be enjoying a sweetened Earl Grey tea. To pay tribute to the contribution Elizabeth Bathory has made to vampire mythology, I’ll be adding a slice of blood orange. It won’t be chilled either as I believe that tea, like blood, should be served warm.

Happy Drinking!

Some Assembly Required

National Cream Tea Day is a British food day that is celebrated on the last Friday in June. This year it was celebrated on June 24th. I didn’t get to celebrate on Friday, but any day is a great day to celebrate the delight that is a cream tea!

National Cream Tea Day was created by two companies, one that specialises in cream – Rodda’s Clotted Cream and one that specialise in jams and preserves – Wilkin and Sons Tiptree. National Cream Tea Day is a fun day that encourages people to get together over a cream tea and raise money for charities. Both companies donate cream and jam for events through their joint organisation, The Cream Tea Society.

Apart from cream and jam, a cream tea needs scones to dollop the cream and jam onto, and lots of tea to wash them down with. The scone recipe I’ve chosen is not a classic British recipe but one from an Ikea cookbook called Hey Flavours! Children’s First Cookbook. Luckily you won’t need an Allen key to assemble these scones! If you’d like to know more about cream teas, and what order you should put the cream and jam on your scone, you can go to my previous post, The Battle Of The Cream Tea.

Scones
I was drawn to these scones as they are made with yoghurt instead of milk, which sounds delicious! I’ve tested them thoroughly and they do also taste delicious.

Ingredients
1 + 1/2 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
50g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup yoghurt

for serving
jam
cream
tea

Instructions
Preheat oven to 200C / 400F.
Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
Add the butter and, using your fingers, rub it into the flour.
Add the yoghurt and mix into a dough.
Place dough onto a floured surface and flatten until approximately 2cm thick.
Use a glass or cookie cutter to cut into round shapes.
Place onto prepared tray and sprinkle with a little flour.
Bake for 10 – 12 minutes.

When Shall We Three Meet Again

May 26 is World Dracula Day which celebrates the day that Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula was published. Dracula was published in 1897 making this year the 125th anniversary!

The Dracula Tarot

Dracula is an epistolary novel as it is written as a series of documents. The narrative beautifully unfolds through letters, diary entries, newspaper articles, ship logs, telegrams and phonograph recordings. Dracula therefore has an exhaustive list of the places, times and dates that events occur. To celebrate World Dracula Day, I decided to see if there was an entry for May 26 – and happily there was!

Telegram from Arthur Holmwood to Quincey P. Morris.
“26 May.
“Count me in every time. I bear messages which will make both your ears tingle.
“ART.”

Doesn’t that sound intriguing? Here is the previous correspondence which explains what invitation Arthur is accepting.

Letter, Quincey P. Morris to Hon. Arthur Holmwood.
“25 May.
“My dear Art,—
“We’ve told yarns by the camp-fire in the prairies; and dressed one another’s wounds after trying a landing at the Marquesas; and drunk healths on the shore of Titicaca. There are more yarns to be told, and other wounds to be healed, and another health to be drunk. Won’t you let this be at my camp-fire to-morrow night? I have no hesitation in asking you, as I know a certain lady is engaged to a certain dinner-party, and that you are free. There will only be one other, our old pal at the Korea, Jack Seward. He’s coming, too, and we both want to mingle our weeps over the wine-cup, and to drink a health with all our hearts to the happiest man in all the wide world, who has won the noblest heart that God has made and the best worth winning. We promise you a hearty welcome, and a loving greeting, and a health as true as your own right hand. We shall both swear to leave you at home if you drink too deep to a certain pair of eyes. Come!
“Yours, as ever and always,“Quincey P. Morris.”

I can just picture Quincey, Dr Seward and Arthur sitting around a campfire discussing Arthur’s “ear tingling” news. Arthur can’t wait to tell them that he is engaged to Lucy Westenra. What Arthur doesn’t know is that his proposal to Lucy on 24 May is the third she received that day. Dr Seward was the first to propose followed shortly after by Quincey. Both men are refused and they realise that Arthur is the man Lucy loves. This get-together is to congratulate Arthur for winning Lucy’s heart. Arthur is never told about the proposals and never realises how deep Dr Seward’s and Quincey’s love for Lucy is. There is also another secret that Quincey and Dr Seward keep from Arthur involving an “intimate” episode with Lucy. If you don’t already know, you’ll have to read the book to find out!

Happy World Dracula Day!

The Dracula Tarot

Stately Ghosts

April 20th is Bram Stoker’s Death Day. This year marks the 110th year since the Dracula author passed away. To honour the memory of one of my favourite writers, I went on another Lantern Ghost Tour.

The Eynesbury Homestead Dinner and Ghost Tour usually takes place once a month on a Friday night. I had originally booked a tour for Friday the 13th in August 2021, but sadly had to postpone it. I rescheduled it for April 15th which was close to Bram Stoker’s deathiversary and also Good Friday. I loved doing a ghost tour on a day dedicated to death, blood and resurrection. The fact that it was also a full moon added to the magic!

With the moon lighting our way, our guide took us for a walk through the property, pointing out places of historical and ghostly significance. The stories were gruesome as our guide told of those who’d died so long ago, and the stories of the ghosts who remain. The abandoned meat room, with meat hooks that sometimes swing on their own, was pretty creepy. The outdoors fully explored, it was time to go inside.

As we entered the first room – the former sitting room, I was drawn to one section in particular. I wasn’t surprised when the guide told us that’s where they placed the coffin for a wake or vigil. The deceased would be displayed in the family home for a few days to make sure they were truly dead. In a time when it was difficult to ascertain death, a wake was literally giving the deceased time to wake up before burial.

I loved the stories our guide told us as they really brought to life the house and the family who built it. Sadly, most of the house has now been transformed into a restaurant at the cost of some of its historical charm – a mixture of Victorian and Georgian styles reflecting its late 19th century origins. The exception was the snooker room, which was decorated with original furnishings and even wall paper. It brought out the historical feel, including a full sized snooker table so heavy that it had sunk into the floor and had to be reinforced! Overall though, the fact that the house is displayed as a restaurant, and not a stately home takes away some of its spirit, but it’s still worth visiting.

There is a collection of antique dolls but, devastatingly, they were not on display. Apparently they have been banished to the cellar for being too creepy. We couldn’t go in the cellar, but I did take photos, hoping to see the creepy dolls. Sadly they were out of view so I didn’t get to see them.

To console myself I went home and played with my not so creepy Dracula dolls.

April Fool’s Day Capers

To celebrate April Fool’s Day I’d like to pay tribute to one of my favourite pranks. On April Fool’s Day 1957, the BBC’s current affairs program Panorama aired a story about a family in Switzerland harvesting spaghetti from their spaghetti tree. The family were celebrating a bumper harvest due to a mild winter and the almost total eradication of the spaghetti beetle.

photo from wikipedia

Apparently, spaghetti was not well known in the UK at that time so many were fooled by the story. Some viewers contacted the BBC asking for advice on how they could grow their own spaghetti trees! Wouldn’t it be awesome if there really were spaghetti trees?

To celebrate this foodie prank I just had to make a big bowl of spaghetti. Naturally I couldn’t resist adding capers to my spaghetti. Not only do capers add a tasty burst of flavour to a dish, but a “caper” is also another name for an escapade, joke or prank.

Spaghetti with Capers

Ingredients
180g spaghetti
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
good squeeze of lemon juice
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan

Instructions
Cook spaghetti in a large pot of boiling, salted water until al dente.
Drain and return the spaghetti to the pot.
Add the olive oil and lemon juice.
Toss until combined and the spaghetti is glossy.
Place into bowls and scatter with capers and parmesan.

Happy April Fool’s Day!

The Power Of A Panda

March 16th is Panda Day. It’s a day to celebrate giant pandas and to raise awareness about the struggles pandas face in the wild. Giant pandas are an “umbrella species” which means that the protections we place around wild pandas and their habitats, also protect other animals that share those vulnerable habitats with them. Drawing attention to the struggles of one species can also prompt us to look at other vulnerable animals and hopefully will inspire us to do something to protect the many species around the world that need our help.

Giant pandas are not only important for the planet, but for some of us they nourish our souls. In A Personality Of Pandas, I wrote about my personal connection to pandas and how they helped me through a very difficult time. After a horror couple of years that included a global pandemic, I recently needed to draw on the healing power of pandas again. The best way to do that was to visit the quirky black and white bears at Adelaide Zoo.

Adelaide Zoo is the only zoo in Australia that has giant pandas. Fu Ni (Lucky Girl) and Wang Wang (Net Net) arrived in November 2009. Adelaide is only a short flight, or an eight hour drive, from Melbourne so luckily I’ve been able to visit our resident pandas a few times. I was planning to visit them again two years ago, but the pandemic put our travel plans on hold. I didn’t think it would take so long to see them again but the wait was worth it.

Unfortunately Fu Ni didn’t make an appearance on the day we visited, but Wang Wang did. As soon as I saw his adorable face, and those black ears that look like they’ve been stuck on his head with a glue gun, I felt some some of my anger, pain and grief melt away. I happily watched Wang Wang sitting there eating his bamboo. He was so close I could hear him tearing the strips which he then shoved into his mouth. He seemed oblivious to the crowd until the woman next to me asked if she was blocking my view. Wang Wang stopped eating and stared at us, seeming eager to hear the answer himself. I was happy to let him know that no-one was blocking my view. Wang Wang gave me a long, hard stare and then went back to his feasting, Ieaving me with a lighter soul and a smile on my face.

Happy Panda Day!