Clarissa Johal: August 2014

Friday, August 29, 2014

Frightening Friday-Cool Things

I found these really cool things on eBay. They're Japanese Netsuke figurines and about 1-1.5" tall. My daughters think they're scary, so here you go--my Frightening Friday post.

If I had the money I would be tempted...

Cool thing #1 $399.00

Cool thing #2 $680.00

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday-Volunteering for the Cause

Photo courtesy of ckaiserca via Flickr
If you're looking for a way to make a difference it doesn't always take money. Your time is extremely valuable to those in need. Dumping a bucket of ice water over your head to raise awareness for ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) is great but how about volunteering your time? Many non-profit programs need volunteers to assist in helping those debilitated with ALS. Typical assistance might include helping with minor household chores, a friendly visit, walking the dog, running errands, or escorting the person during outings. Wearing pink for awareness? Training for the Susan G. Komen Race? There are breast cancer centers in dire need of volunteers to drive woman to-and-from their treatments and provide companionship for the experience. Do you like to cook? Preparing meals for the family so these women don't have to worry about dinner after treatment is always appreciated. Are animals more your thing? I can't name one animal shelter that would turn down volunteers to help with dog walking, cat litter scooping or cleaning in general. These aren't glamorous jobs and they aren't always fun--but they're crucial.

If you don't know where to start VolunteerMatch will match your interests to a cause. Most causes are flexible and will work with your schedule. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

#Paranormal Wednesday-Catacombes de Paris

Photo courtesy of Vlastula vis Flickr
The Catacombs of Paris (Catacombes de Paris) are underground ossuaries located in Paris, France. South of the former city gate, they house the remains of approximately 6 million people. The network of caverns and tunnels run more than 300 kilometers under the city. In the 12th century, offering burial in their cemeteries was a source of income for the churches. As a result, they often took in more bodies than they could house. To combat this, mass graves were dug. When the remains had decomposed, the bodies would be exhumed and relocated so new bodies could be buried. The bones were moved to underground limestone quarries and stacked neatly in rows where they remain to this day.

Photo courtesy of skidder via Flickr
Paranormal researchers have captured strange EVP recordings as well as photographs of strange, unexplained lights and misty figures. Visitors report feelings of sadness and some report hearing voices and of being touched. Ghostly figures have been seen roaming through the passageways and some tour groups report seeing large groups of figures walking behind them as they go on the tour. Some tours have even been cut short because of a growing sense of unease. Paranormal activity is routinely captured on film.

Photo courtesy of van Van Es via Flickr
When I was looking through photos of the catacombs it was overwhelming. Thousands upon thousands of human bones, some carefully arranged--heart-shaped outlines crafted from the arrangement of skeletons, pillars made from human leg bones, and fountains crafted from skulls. I can't imagine the energy housed in such a place.

Tour and historical information can be found on the Les Catacombes Histoire de Paris website

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tangled Tuesday-Chaos, Writing and Malfunctioning Televisions

Didn't get much sleep last night. I'm working on the ending to THE ISLAND, my work in progress, and trying to figure out how my protagonist is going to get out of her "situation." My two demon antagonists are running rampant in my head, the television keeps turning itself on to a religious channel that I don't watch (which is kind of creeping me out) and my dogs are asking to be let out every minute to bark at the yard. I guess that's about as "Tangled Tuesday" as you can get!

Have a good one, folks.

Monday, August 25, 2014

#MeatlessMonday-Butternut Squash Muffins #dessert

Summer break is officially over--my oldest starts high school today. With my other daughter in middle school, I'll be shuttling my kiddos between two different schools. It should be quite chaotic! BUT it means I'll be getting back to working on THE ISLAND with plans to finish by December. That's the plan and I'm sticking to it.

Photo courtesy of trpnblies7 via Flickr
So, fall is just around the corner (she said stubbornly) which means there will be lots of squash and pumpkin around. Both are great vegetables for hiding...I mean using in recipes if you have veggie hating teens like I do. Here's a great recipe for breakfast on the run. You can easily substitute pumpkin for the butternut squash if you'd prefer. Enjoy!

Butternut Squash Muffins

1/4 pound of peeled, seeded, and cubed butternut squash

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/3 cup plain yoghurt
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup oil 

Boil squash for about 20 minutes until tender. Puree--you should get about 1 cup of pureed squash.
Mix flour, baking powder, salt, and spices
Mix squash, milk, egg and oil and fold into dry ingredients 
Fill lined muffins tins 3/4 full

Bake at 400F for 20 minutes
Makes 12 muffins

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday-The V-Word #vegetarian

Photo courtesy of epSos .de via Flickr
...and no, it's not what you're thinking. Naughty.

Two things happened this week that led to this post. I don't usually blah, blah about being a vegetarian because seriously, who cares? But for lack of anything else to write about today...

The first was at the grocery store. The check-out person noticed my wacky food and tofu products and asked me about them. Here's how the conversation went.

"Are you one of know...vegetarians?"
"I am."
"Yeah? What do you eat?"
"Everything but meat and fish."
"Don't you get hungry?"
"I've been a vegetarian for about 25 years or so. I haven't starved yet."
"I don't eat much meat. Maybe four or five times a week. Sorry, I can't help myself."

We chatted a little longer before I thanked him for my groceries and left. I can't tell you how many conversations I've had like this. Seriously. Usually, it ends with the person making apologies for eating meat. It's weird.

The other thing that happened this week was a nasty Twitter argument that erupted (in my feed) between a hard core vegetarian and a meat eater. *sigh* Seriously people. See #9 in the "10 Don't's of Twitter."

I'm going to chat a bit about being a vegetarian. And relax, I won't be standing on a soap box. Heights are scary.
I like to say that I'm a Functional Vegetarian. One of my daughters eats chicken and fish, the other eats only fish, and my husband eats everything. And it doesn't bother me a bit. Everyone makes their own choices. You know what bothers me? Preachy Vegetarians. You know what I mean. "Don't eat meat! Eat organic! GMOs are bad!" But everyone has an opinion and this is mine:

There are many different people in the world. I've lived in several countries and experienced many cultures. When I was a kid, it wasn't uncommon to be offered caribou, moose or bear in one place we lived. Further north, that varied to include seal and whale. That's what was available. Fruits and vegetables were extremely pricey and scarce.
I now live in an area where I can choose to be a vegetarian. This is a huge privilege. Organic foods are also a choice--an expensive one. And GMOs? There are people starving in the world and technology can help. You don't have to like it but I'm willing to bet you have the choice not to purchase. There are people that don't. Here's their choice: Crops resistant to insects and disease vs...nothing.

I share vegetarian recipes here on #Meatless Monday because that's how I roll. If you like the recipes--awesome. If you want to adjust them to fit your tastes--also awesome. To the hardcore vegetarians that feel the need to condemn others for their choices--mind your own beeswax. You won't get people to understand where you're coming from by preaching on your soapbox. Ditto for condemning people for their religion, sexual preference or anything else that floats their boat.

I'm going to end this post on a silly note because you can't take life too seriously. 
Have a great Thursday

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

#Paranormal Wednesday-Robert the #Haunted Doll

Photo courtesy of Susan Smith via Flickr
More creepy dolls, just what you wanted, right? Guess I'm on a creepy doll kick. Here's one on eBay I would purchase if I had the money. There's just something about it...and I don't even like dolls.

The doll pictured here was owned by Key West painter and author Robert Eugene Otto. It's said to be possessed by evil spirits and has become the subject of urban legend and Creepypasta. It was difficult to separate fact from fiction when researching this post. I do think that Robert Eugene Otto experienced mental illness and poured a lot of energy into this doll. Energy which may have something to do with the issues surrounding the doll today.

In 1906, a Bahamian servant gave the doll to 6-year-old Robert as a gift. One story claims she was skilled in black magic and voodoo and was displeased with the family. Other sources say it was a gift of love and the 40" doll, stuffed with wood wool known as excelsior, was meant to be a replica of the boy. Regardless, Robert (nicknamed Gene) took an instant liking to it. He named the doll "Robert" and would often dress the doll in his own clothing. His parents would hear their son talking to it and answering himself in a changed voice. Later, as the family began to feel there was something eerie about the doll, they claimed it was actually speaking to him. Gene blamed the doll for mischief he would have otherwise gotten in trouble for...but he and the doll were inseparable.

When Robert "Gene" Otto married, his wife tried to convince him to store the doll in the attic. He wouldn't hear of it. He insisted the doll needed its own room where it could see out the window. The doll ended up in the Turret Room of the house where Gene would spend countless hours painting. The Otto's marriage was a rocky one. Gene would go through extreme personality changes and fits of rage (oftentimes directed at his wife) and blame the doll for his behavior. 

When Gene died in 1974, the doll was left in the attic. Stories of the doll’s strange behavior became commonplace. Tenants heard footsteps in the attic room above them. A plumber heard giggling and claimed the doll moved across the attic on its own. The house was eventually sold to Myrtle Reuter. In 1994, Myrtle donated Robert to the Fort East Martello Museum. She also claimed the doll was haunted and moved around on its own. Myrtle died a few months later.

Today, the doll is on display at Fort East Martello. People taking a photo of Robert must ask permission first. Those who don't, experience camera malfunctions and other misfortunes. Guests claim to have seen Robert's expression change right before their eyes. To appease his spirit, peppermints are left in the glass case where Robert sits, only to have them gone in the morning--wrappers discarded and laying off to the side.

If you're interested, here's a short video:

Monday, August 18, 2014

#MeatlessMonday-Vegetarian Split Pea Soup #vegetarian #vegan

Photo courtesy of Muy Yum via Flickr
I hate, hate peas. With a passion. But for some reason, split-pea soup is okay. Enjoy!

Vegetarian Split Pea Soup

16 oz. dried split peas
6c. vegetable stock
¼ c. soy sauce
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, sliced
Handful of spinach, chopped fine
1T garlic
1tsp lemon pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp basil

Rinse peas.
Add 4 cups stock, vegetables, onion, carrots, spinach, garlic, lemon pepper, cumin, and basil.
Simmer on medium heat for about 30-40 minutes. Add 2 cups vegetable stock as needed until peas have dissolved.
Blend in blender until smooth.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday-The Waverly Hills Sanatorium and Disrespect for the Dead

Photo courtesy of Kris Arnold via Wikipedia
The Waverly Hills Sanatorium located in Louisville, Kentucky is believed to be one of the most haunted locations in the world. It operated as a hospital for tuberculosis patients from 1910 to 1962. Later, it reopened as a nursing home before finally closing its doors in 1982.

New owners, Charlie and Tina Mattingly, hold tours of Waverly Hills and host a haunted house attraction each Halloween. The proceeds are being used to renovate the building into a hotel, after which they will continue to host paranormal enthusiasts. They have been quoted as stating, “People won't come here just because they need a room. They're going to come here because they want to have an experience for the weekend.”

My raised eyebrows aren't towards the fact that they're making use of this building. I understand the value of land. However, touting it as a "haunted hotel" is not only asking for trouble, it's disrespectful to the people who died (records estimate an average of 100/year when it was a hospital) and whose spirits supposedly remain. Several paranormal investigators have suggested that the spirits at this location aren't at rest. I'm not sure they need to be bothered by hotel guests looking for an "experience for the weekend." Instead, it may be the obligation of the living to help these spirits move on--not exploit their suffering. 

I leave you with 1931 Government Tuberculosis film featuring The Waverly Hills Sanatorium. A slice of history involving real people in what must have been a terrible situation. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

#Paranormal Wednesday-Black Hope Cemetery

Photo taken at City Cemetery in Raleigh, NC
The Black Hope Cemetery was a 19th century African-American burial ground located in Crosby, Texas. There were as many as 60 people buried there, including former slaves and those buried in pauper's graves. The last burial was recorded in 1939. The land was originally owned by the McKinney family. When slavery was abolished, the McKinney family allotted a portion of their land to their former slaves. An entire black community was built; including schools, churches, and a cemetery, until a fire demolished the area. Eventually, the land was sold to the Purcell Corporation for the purpose of building housing developments. One of the developments, the Newport subdivision, was built over the existing Black Hope Cemetery. 

In the early 1980s, Sam and Judith Haney were one of several couples who purchased homes in the Newport subdivision. When Sam decided to dig a swimming pool in his backyard, a local grave digger warned him that he was about to dig up human remains. Sam continued with the dig and unearthed two pine boxes. An official exhumation was conducted and revealed the remains of Betty and Charlie Thomas, who died during the 1930s. Most of the bones had turned to powder, save for some fragments. Two wedding rings were all that remained.

The remains were reburied but the dead would not rest. The Haney's sliding door would open and close as if someone was there, unplugged clock radios would turn on in the middle of the night, and shoes would vanish and turn up inexplicably beside Betty and Charlie's old grave site. The Haney's weren't the only ones experiencing unexplained phenomena. A dozen of their neighbors reported pockets of ice-cold air, strange lights, televisions and water faucets turning on and off, toilets flushing on their own, unearthly sounds, disembodied conversations, and shadows and supernatural apparitions. One of the neighbors, Ben and Jean Williams, reported that sinkholes would appear in the unmistakable shape of coffins near their flowerbeds. They would fill them in, only to have them reappear a few days later. Jean, a long-time gardener, couldn't get anything new to grow on the property.

The Haneys attempted to sue the developers for not disclosing their home was built over a cemetery. They were awarded $142,000 for mental anguish, but a reversal ruled that the developers were not liable. The developers claimed there was no proof that the cemetery existed. The verdict was thrown out and the Haneys were ordered to pay $50,000 in court costs. The Haneys moved, filing bankruptcy. Other residents attempted to sue and were awarded a large cash settlement by a jury, but the judge set aside the decision and none of the residents of the Newport subdivision received any money as compensation.

The cemetery and many of the bodies are still located beneath the Newport subdivision today.

Read more about Sam and Judith Haney's experience in:  The Black Hope Horror: A True Story of a Haunting

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Tangled Tuesday-Making #Art

Several of my friends are on Etsy. They are all very talented and create very different art. My hat is off to all of them. I am not an artist--unless you count words. I can draw a stick figure, I can glue Popsicle sticks together in semblance of...something. But I am not an artist.

If you're looking for something unique as a gift or for yourself, please peruse their shops. Etsy is a treasure trove of talented artists.

Meg Kempert of Albuquerque, NM

Favorite Materials: Recycled paper and glass, beads, wire, glass cabs, seed beads, copper and brass.

"Welcome to New Crone Craftworks. We offer handmade jewelry and craft kits using recycled and upcycled materials such as paper, wire and glass. New Crone is also on Facebook"


Carly Johnson of Huntington Beach, CA

SoleilEtCiel is also on Instagram @soleiletciel
Carly is also co-owner of peachygirlz on Etsy

"In luv w/ fruit, glitter, 90's style, candy, clothes, music, & the ocean!!"


Portia Baum of Raleigh, NC

Favorite Materials: Ferrous and Non Ferrous Metals, Pearls, Diamonds,Stones, Cotton Fabric, Silk Thread

"I am an Artist, Mother, Wife, Thinker, Creator. I care very much about the world around me, be it my home, hometown, homeland, home planet or beyond. I am like a Raven and get very distracted by shiny and interesting things. It took me a long time to figure out where I am to be. It's perfect, though, because without the Journey, the destination means nothing. I have had a very interesting and educational Journey so far and it has prepared me well for where I am right now.
I love to observe and study and collect. Everyone says it, but it holds true - Nature is an endless source of beauty ingenuity & inspiration. My life, my training, is in Fine arts. My thought process and expression tend to be structure oriented. Figuring out and understanding the way things are put together, or even how they fall apart help me establish my place in the world. So here I find myself combining several life-themes - rocks, structure & a love of beautiful things. Jewelry. The perfect Storm. Enjoy."


If you're connected via social networks please spread the news. In writing this post I was saddened to learn one of my artist friends had closed her shop. Not because her art wasn't awesome, but because she hadn't made a sale in a couple of months. It's very difficult to "get the word out" and reach buyers when you don't have a physical shop--things get lost in the virtual world of the internet. YOU have the power to change that with a little lip service.  Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, August 11, 2014

#MeatlessMonday-Thai Butternut Squash Soup & Peanut Butter Banana Oat Milkshake #vegetarian

I had my wisdom tooth out last Friday and everything went well. I skipped Frightening Friday and spared you the gory details because I was playing Skyrim all day. You know, important "post wisdom tooth removal" stuff.

So, I'm still on "soft foods" per my dentist's orders. I hadn't realized how much of my diet is in the "crunchy food" category until now. Raw carrots, red peppers, almonds, pumpkin seeds...sigh. I've been told I can have mashed potatoes, pasta, Jello, which is yucky because I really don't like any of those things.

When I was trying to find healthy recipes that go beyond the mushy food group, I was reminded of my pregnancy days. I experienced morning sickness 24/7 for about 8 months during both my pregnancies. Yay me. There was a period around 2AM where I could eat without seeing it again. During the day, I walked continuously because it made me feel better and tried to nibble. Good times. But it was worth it--both my girls are the light of my life.

This milkshake was my mainstay back then. And since nausea isn't the issue now, I'm living off soup as well. The soup recipe is a new one. I've tweaked and adjusted to fit my tastes and it's really good.

Peanut Butter Banana Oat Milkshake

1-1/2 cups milk
1 banana
2T peanut butter
1/4 cup oats

Blend with ice cubes. Serves 2

Thai Butternut Squash Soup

1T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 piece fresh ginger (1 to 2 inches), peeled and grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
1T red curry paste (such as Thai Kitchen)
1 can (14.5 ounces) light coconut milk
4 cups vegetable broth
3 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tsp salt
1 tsp chili garlic sauce
1 tsp pepper
3T lime juice
1/3 cup peanut butter

1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add ginger, garlic and curry paste and cook for 1 minute.

2. Add coconut milk and vegetable broth; stir well. Add squash, salt, chili garlic sauce and pepper. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Cook 15 to 20 minutes or until squash is tender.

3. Puree soup until smooth. Stir in lime juice and peanut butter.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday...

After years of nagging by my dentist, I'm finally getting a wisdom tooth removed tomorrow because it's getting too cozy with one one next to it.  My only thoughts on this Thoughtful Thursday are of escape and denial. And possibly a little screaming. I've never had a cavity nor have I had any work done on my teeth so I guess my time has come. Stupid wisdom tooth.

Not sure about a post tomorrow on Frightening Friday--maybe I'll tell you the gory details after it's all over.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Tangled Tuesday-My Random YouTube Videos of the Week

Because I tend to wander while thinking between scenes...

My top paranormal giggle this week. Look out! It's a demon-chicken.

"Demon Caught on Smart Phone"

Not a fan of the music but the concept made me laugh. I don't think he's uploading anymore, which is unfortunate because his recipes are pretty good.

"Vegan Black Metal Chef. Episode 1: Pad Thai"

Animal escapades. This made me laugh more than it should have. No idea why this person has lion cubs but I can only hope they are rehabbing them to go back into the wild.

"Sneaking Lion Cub Gives Dog a Fright"

Monday, August 4, 2014

#MeatlessMonday-Rosemary-Garbanzo Bean Soup and Saffron Bread #vegetarian

Photo by vanillaechoes
Rights purchased through depositphotos
Yes, yes. I know for a lot of you it's hot days and soup is furthest from your mind. I'm a soup addict no matter what time of year. And it's cold...somewhere in the world. So, here you go. One of my favorite super-quick and easy soup recipes. Feel free to add more veggies; zucchini, potatoes, red peppers, whatever strikes your fancy. Enjoy!

Rosemary-Garbanzo Bean Soup

2T olive oil
1 small onion chopped
2 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 cups veggie broth
1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas) drained
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 carrot, diced
Handful of fresh spinach, chopped

Sauté onion, rosemary and garlic in olive oil. Add veggie broth, garbanzo beans, chopped tomatoes, diced carrot and spinach. Cook through until carrots are tender.

Serve with your favorite bread. I usually make saffron bread in my bread maker. Saffron is usually expensive but it you purchase it at an international market, the price drops considerably.

Photo courtesy of Maena via morgueFile
Saffron Bread

1 egg plus water to equal 1-1/4 cups
2T olive oil
3 cups bread flour
1-1/2 tsp sugar
1-1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp saffron, ground
2 tsp yeast

Cook on basic bake cycle

Friday, August 1, 2014

Frightening Friday-Dead Man's Chair

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
In North Yorkshire, England of 1702, Thomas Busby was convicted for the murder of his father-in-law, Daniel Awety. The two had been arguing over petty counterfeiting activities. When Busby showed at the local pub, his father-in-law was sitting in his favorite chair which prompted yet another argument. Later that night, Busby bludgeoned Awety to death with a hammer.

On his way to the gallows, Busby asked to stop at the pub and have a final drink. When he finished, he cursed the chair saying, "May sudden death come to anyone who dare sit in my chair." Busby was dipped in pitch and left in a gibbet before the townspeople finally hung him at Sandhutton crossroads, right outside the pub. 

Busby's stoop chair or "Dead Man's Chair" as it's been called, is said to be responsible for the deaths of many people.

In 1894, a local chimney sweep and another man left the pub. The chimney sweep decided to sleep on the roadside. The following morning he was found hanging on a gatepost next to the old Busby gibbet. Locals report that even though the death was determined to be a suicide, the man had been sitting in Busby's chair the previous evening.

During WWII, crews from the Royal Canadian Air Force would frequent the pub. It is rumored that airmen who sat in the Busby chair never returned home.

In 1968, Tony Earnshaw took over as proprietor of the Busby Stoop Inn (as the pub was later renamed). Mr Earnshaw initially dismissed the Busby curse but later reported several fatal incidents which concerned him. One incident involved two airmen who dared each other to sit in the chair. Later that day, their car hit a tree and both men died on their way to the hospital. Another incident involved a group of builders who dared a young laborer to sit in the chair. He obliged but after returning to work, the laborer fell through a roof to his death. It was after this incident that Tony Earnshaw moved the chair to the cellar. However, the curse continued.

In 1978, a delivery driver made a delivery to the cellar. He told Mr Earnshaw how comfortable the chair was (after sitting in it) and suggested that it should be moved into the pub. Hours later, the delivery driver drove his vehicle off the road and was killed instantly.
Earnshaw sent the chair to the Thirsk Museum where it now hangs from the ceiling to prevent occupancy. 

The Busby Stoop Inn closed in 2012. Outside, Busby's noose still dangles from a gallows arm.

Photo courtesy of Google Maps

Is this just superstition and happenstance? There are several details that didn't quite add up when I was researching this story. But would I sit in this chair and tempt fate? Probably not.