Ghostly Tales

FireChristina here and I’m continuing with the paranormal theme, even though Halloween is over. I love this time of year when the nights are getting longer and darker, and we (in the northern hemisphere) begin to light log fires and candles at night to dispel the gloom. It’s easy to imagine that the shadows around us are moving and there’s something, or someone, lurking in the corners, especially if you live in an old house. In other words – it’s the perfect time for ghostly tales!

Do you believe in ghosts? Spirits or lost souls who remain on earth because of unfinished business? I do, but I’ve never been fortunate (or unfortunate?) enough to encounter one myself. To tell the truth, I’m a bit of a scaredy-cat and would probably have had hysterics if I did come across anything paranormal, so perhaps hearing about it second-hand is the better option for me.

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A Royally Sweet Secret!

Chocolate-04Andrea here, As most of you know, I love doing research. For me it’s endlessly interesting—and at times exciting, especially when I discover something new about something I’ve delved into before. (That’s truly one of the pleasures of history—the more you think you know, the more you find hidden surprises!)

HCPAnd given the season, this sweet discovery is particularly fun. Chocolate and the holidays—really, how perfect is that! The royal palaces of London are some of my favorite places, and I happened to be doing some additional research on Kensington Palace and Kew Palaces for the Wrexford & Sloane mystery I’m currently writing . . .when lo and behold, a tantalizing little sidebar popped up regarding Hampton Court Palace. Given that it involved chocolate, how could I resist! So join me in enjoying this little nibble of history.


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From the Garden Gnome to the Pink Flamingo!

BadgerNicola here. I’m sitting outside today in the sunshine (we’ve been having very un-summery weather here in the UK lately so I’m making the most of it) and around me are various ornaments that are, literally, part of the garden design and something I really love having in my garden. There’s Fez, Kiwi and Piwi (who are metal birds) and elsewhere, my badger (in the photo), tortoise and even a peregrine falcon with its beak chewed off by one of the guide dog puppies. I’d never really thought what a feature garden ornamentation is until I read an article recently saying that the tradition of decorating your garden – or grove – dates back to Ancient Egypt.

The Ancient Greeks favoured statues of the well-endowed god Priapus which were placed outside to encourage fertility, act as bird scarers and allegedly warn of unpleasant consequences to trespassers. I haven’t included a picture of Priapus out of respect for readers’ sensibilities but the idea of decorating one’s garden with statuary was one that endured through the Roman period when the fashion for sculptures of animals began. At Roman villa complexes in England designs for hedges have been found that allowed for gaps where urns and statues were displayed.

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The Return of the Skirret

Old fruitNicola here, and today I am talking about food, and in particular historic vegetables. If you look at old menus from hundreds of years ago – for a banquet at Hampton Court Palace for King Henry VIII, for example – there are plenty of dishes that might cause us to shudder. “Meat tile” anyone? It consists of chicken first simmered and then sautéed, served with a spicy sauce of crayfish tails, almonds and… toast.   Then there are pies with songbirds in them, lampreys in sauce… It’s all a matter of taste. One thing I had not realised, however, was that our ancestors ate vegetables that have completely disappeared from the menu today. I assumed that vegetables had evolved in that we eat the same things although they may look and taste different as a result of being grown commercially. However, I have never met anyone who has eaten a skirret.

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