One-a-week Photo Challenge: POP!

Today is a balmy, snow-covered −11°C, with a predicted low of −23°C tonight. Let’s go out with a POP of summer colour for the final prompt of this challenge! I took this image in June at a local plant nursery and gave it an oil painting-type effect.Thanks to Wild Daffodil and nanacathydotcom for running the challenge. I look forward to contributing to the Monthly Meet-Up next year!

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Luck in a Bottle

Witch bottles have been around for hundreds of years, their popularity peaking in England and the United States during the 17th and 18th centuries. They were used by witches and wise women, healers and lay folk as counter curses or protection against evil spirits and psychic attack. The idea was to place sharp objects such as needles, pins, nails (the rustier, the better), broken glass, thorns or bits of wood into a bottle along with a liquid such as urine, red wine, vinegar or sea water, a written spell, pungent herbs or personal objects such as hair or nail clippings. The bottle was then sealed and placed in a hidden corner of the house, between walls, or buried either beneath the doorstep, hearth (evil spirits were thought to enter the house through the chimney) or at the farthest corner of the property. There it was thought to draw evil into the bottle to be impaled on the pins, drowned in the liquid or banished by the herbs. As long as the bottle stayed intact and undiscovered, the power of its spell remained alive.

Witch bottles are still used, although the intent has shifted from countering curses to ensuring luck and protection, encouraging creativity, positivity, happiness or wealth. Go ahead and use urine if you want (eww) … but most witch bottle recipes today call for more palatable ingredients such as sea salt, peppercorns and other spices, herbs such as rosemary, bay leaves and basil, sand, saw dust, crystals, coins – and anything else that symbolizes your intent.

As December wanes, I wanted to make a protection bottle as a symbolic clearing of old energies, readying the house for the New Year. While I was at it, I made a flower-filled “witch ball” ornament – hung in the home for good luck – as a Christmas gift for a friend. I used only what ingredients I already had on hand, and saw no need to use liquid or hide the bottle. In fact, both projects use pretty colours, as they are intended to be seen! Here are my ingredients and their associated properties:

All-purpose Protection Bottle (layered from bottom to top)

Moss: connection to the earth • charity • luck • money • protection
Pink Himalayan salt: protection, especially against negative energy • purification
Pink peppercorns: protection
Crushed bay leaves: wisdom • victory
Lavender: love • longevity • peace
Allspice berries: (male) energy • money • luck
Cardamom pods: (female) hospitality
Rosehips: health • wealth • luck • encourage friendly spirits
Rose petals: love • protection against the evil eye

I chose to seal the small corked bottle with white candle wax (dripped from a couple of tea lights), but you can also use a bottle with a screw-on lid or a small mason jar. As I don’t expect to repel a curse (!), I intend to leave the bottle on my work table so that I can admire its colours and textures and gain inspiration from the simple act of its creation.

Witch Ball

My friend, whose favourite colour is purple, struggles daily with illness, so I filled a glass ornament with dried lavender, rosebuds and rose petals to represent love, good health and protection. Although the cap is glued on for security, small holes in the top allow a delicious potpourri to waft out.

Stay tuned for more bottled magick coming soon!

Window

I love photographing windows, doors and gates. What lies beyond them? Where do they lead? They’re like portals to another world – mysterious, beckoning.

It was difficult to choose from amongst my collection for this week’s One-a-week Photo Challenge prompt, Window. I have images from old cabins and sheds, stately homes, ruined castles, humble brick abodes. Stained glass is another of my interests, so I’ve photographed my fair share of leaded windows in chapels, churches and cathedrals. These would have been a bit obvious, so for this challenge, I opted for the quaint and rustic.

A cosy cat at a Lake Ontario home • Along the Mississauga Waterfront Trail, 2007

Wildflower bouquet on my cottage bedroom windowsill • Muskoka, 2016

Patio café • Bracebridge, 2014

Lunching at this charming tearoom is an annual summer tradition • Gravenhurst, 2008

Chappell House, The Riverwood Conservancy • Mississauga, 2017

By the lake • Muskoka, 2016

Although I participated in only a few of the weekly prompts, I enjoyed them very much. Thanks to Wild Daffodil and nanacathydotcom for this year-long challenge!

Tied Up In Knots

More paracord projects!

More monkey’s fists: Some monkey’s fist designs, especially larger ones, will have a marble, knotted cord, ping pong ball or other sphere as its core.

Keychains & lanyards: (L to R) Utility knife lanyard using the crown sinnet (box) knot; the fishtail knot in this keychain looks similar to the snake knot but is tied quite differently; this version of a ‘Celtic Slammer’ (a self-defense weapon) employs a Celtic knot around the marble, snake knots for the lanyard, and a decorative diamond knot at the top. I use this piece as an amulet.

Animals & figures: The frog looks complicated but is really a modified crown sinnet; the “buddy” has a diamond knot for the head and cobra knots for the body; snake knots are used for the bumblebee.

Holiday tree ornaments & zipper pulls: Snake knots make up this snowflake; a tiny snowman uses a series of conjoined diamond knots; cobra knots form this beaded Christmas tree; the Hallowe’en pumpkin has a diamond knot, often used as a secure stopper knot, at its core.

One Foggy Night

In a haunted wood one evening drear,
along the bank of a river clear,
I felt my cheek by cold lips kissed;
’twas no ghost, but November mist.

“November Mist” © 2017 Valerie Barrett. All rights reserved.

Of course I meant to publish this poem last month, but time has once again run away on fleet and ruthless feet!

I’ve written about my love of fog before. Sadly, fog is a fairly rare phenomenon where I live. A couple of days ago, however, I woke very early to a world blanketed by a dense and eerie mist, and captured this image.

A friend recently introduced me to the London Fog latte, a wonderfully comforting drink, especially for this time of year. Major coffee chains sell something similar, but few if any of them use the mystery ingredient – lavender – which gives this version its deliciously ethereal quality. The citrusy bergamot of Earl Grey tea combined with lavender, sugar, and foamy, vanilla-laced milk is like strolling misty wet cobblestone laneways in December whilst snugly wrapped in a herringbone wool coat and soft cashmere muffler.

You can make this recipe with or without frothing the milk. (Handheld frothers, whether manual or battery-operated, are available for less than $20.) When warming the milk, make sure it doesn’t scald or boil.

London Fog Latte (makes 1-2 servings)

• 1 Earl Grey tea bag
• 1 cup boiling water
• ½ tsp dried lavender flowers
• ½ cup hot milk (steamed or frothed if desired)
• sugar to taste
• ¼ tsp vanilla extract

Brew tea and lavender together for about 5 minutes. Remove tea bag and lavender (strain out if necessary). Stir in milk, sugar and vanilla. Enjoy!