Wednesday, October 29, 2014

All Hallows' Eve

Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.
Eye of newt, toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork and blind worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing.
                                                     (Macbeth by William Shakespeare).

The time has come again, perhaps children’s second favorite holiday of the year. (I think Christmas beats out Halloween by just a bit.) Today Halloween is a holiday for costumes, parties, things that go bump in the night and a new Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup commercial. It is the one time of year where it is acceptable for all ages to dress up in costume and intentionally scare everyone within sight.
Unlike a popular belief, Halloween was not created by the candy companies. Like most holidays, Halloween started long ago to honor spirits and to appease the gods. The name Halloween has descended from All Hallows’ Eve. All Hallows’ Eve was a celebration on the eve of the Celtic New Year, on which the Samhain festival was celebrated.  In Celtic tradition this was the perfect time to start the New Year, the time of the switching of the seasons, from Summer to Winter, and the last harvest of the year.

The festival of Samhain is the end of the last harvest season. This is the time when farmers and herders collect their goods and prepare for Winter months. Food is stocked and inventories are taken. Stock is also slaughtered to prepare the meat for the winter, during which months large herds could not be cared for due to the lack of availability of their food.

It was believed that during this time the souls of the deceased would return to the world of the living and visit their living relatives. While family could return and visit, so could the mischievous and malicious souls as well. Souls were thought to return to their family homes to visit their living relatives. Places at the table or seats by the fire were often set for these visiting spirits. Malicious spirits were thought to cause havoc or seek revenge during this time and they were often feared. It was for these spirits that the costumes were adorned to appease and mimic them (

Trick or treating is not a modern concept. Even during the Samhain festival, children would go door to door requesting treats. If treats were not given, the residents would have a trick played on them. Today these pranksters are watched for rigorously. Around Halloween the sales of seemingly harmless items like toilet paper, eggs and shaving cream are monitored. Some places even go to the lengths as not to sell these items to minors in the week or so leading up to Halloween. In some countries parents of these pranksters can legally be prosecuted for the offenses for their children.

Beware the ghouls and goblins that roam free this All Hallows’ Eve! 

Friday, October 10, 2014

50 Years Ago Today: Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton

Fifty years ago today Elizabeth Taylor married Richard Burton. In an unusual wedding, Liz wore a yellow, empire style chiffon gown. In her traditional, out of the norm style, she wore a crown of white hyacinths and lilies of the valley around her head that cascaded down her pulled back hair style. Like many Hollywood couples Taylor and Burton meet onset of a movie they costarred. In 1961 they meet on the set of Cleopatra; Taylor playing the eternal Queen and Goddess and Burton playing her second husband, Marc Antony. Throughout their careers they costarred in 11 films together.

Burton was Taylor’s fifth husband, married only days after Taylor was divorced from her previous husband. They would be married for ten years before they divorced in 1974. A year later they remarried, only to divorce again less than a year later. Taylor would have a total of seven husbands and was divorced when she died in 2011. 

* Image courtesy of

Friday, October 3, 2014

Fighting the Dark Ages with a Little Green

The days are growing shorter, we have now seen a few days that did not reach 70 degrees and soon the greens will give way to yellows, orange and red. Fall has come again! While the change happens every year with only a slight variation on the timing and the life expectancy of the yellow, orange and reds, for many of us this change still comes as a surprise.

While the days start growing shorter after June 21st, for some reason it takes weeks before we suddenly realize that it is 6:00 and we are being blinded by the setting sun. Soon the days are over before most of us are able to walk out of work and the nights of dinner in the backyard, warm night breezes and bright garden flowers are over. Welcome to the ‘Dark Ages’.

Before panic sets in, counter the dreariness that comes with the seemingly never ending night and monochromatic views of the winter months by bringing in a little color to your winter with some of your favorite plants. Not only are plants great to look at but they also have many health benefits*.

Plants, whether indoor or outdoor, convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. Similarly to how our bodies use oxygen to metabolize, plant use carbon dioxide during photosynthesis, each discarding the gas that the other needs to support life. Without oxygen our bodies are unable to metabolize, meaning we could not repair old tissue, create new tissue, discard unneeded materials or convert those yummy calories into energy**.  

The plants themselves are not the only things that help the air. The plants’ soil acts as a purifier, pulling toxins out of the air. What a great option when it is too cold outside to open the windows for fresh air. While plants cannot create a breeze, there is no need to live in stagnant, dull air simply by bringing in a few plants*.

During photosynthesis plants also release water vapor into the atmosphere. In the winter months the humidity often drops as the heater are turned on, causing dry and irritated skin. Bring some of that life back to the air with something refreshing to the body, mind and atmosphere*.

But do these benefits actually make a difference in day to day life?

Studies show that hospital patients who have plants in their rooms tend to recover faster, require less medication, have higher levels of energy and are often released earlier than patients who do not plants in their rooms. Other studies show that offices with plants have higher levels of productivity and energy, are less likely to suffer from common colds and flu and have lower blood pressure*

Here are some plants we recommend:

Peace Lilies (Spathiphyllum)***

Dracaena (Dracaena)***

Croton (Codiaeum)***

Dieffenbachia (Dieffenbachia)***

***All images curtesy of Rose of Sharon Floral Designs