Sunday, November 14, 2010

Goblin Valley State Park

When people visit Utah, the magnificent canyons of Bryce and Zion spring to mind. On a recent visit, however, I discovered the many hidden treasures of mid-south Utah, one of them called Goblin Valley State Park. Located in Emery County, between Green River and Hanksville, this is a secluded hideaway for some of the more unusual rock formations in Utah. It was designated a state park in 1964, and for only $7, it is well worth the look.

The first thing you'll notice upon entry is the signs that say "No Bicycling in the Goblins". This gave my husband and I quite a chuckle. Yet, I can see how it would present a danger to tourists. There are hundreds of these rock formations, and Goblin Valley
is the perfect place to play hide-and-seek, with or without children. Although they dissuade people from climbing the goblins, I don't think I viewed a single person not on a goblin at some point in time. Whether trying to get a better view, taking a moment to meditate, or posing, this is a place that inspires you to clamber on top of these ancient rocks.

This is a place that lets you find your inner child.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Changing Education's Paradigms

Most of us who are reading this blog right now have been molded from the "traditional" method of education. You are sent to school with those children your own age, taught the same things, all while sitting at a desk, and hoping not to fall asleep when you are (un)lucky enough to have a teacher whose monotonous voice drones on like the teacher from the Charlie Brown cartoons.

Sir Ken Robinson, a public speaker, is passionate about changing that paradigm.

Arguing that this type of educational system came out of the age of industry, he argues that we are categorizing people into smart and stupid - those who are able to stand the rigors of our current education system, and those who are not. Not only is this video fascinating to listen to, but it is expertly illustrated by an artist with a dry erase marker as Robinson gives his lecture. The one thing that Robinson's talks are missing is exactly how we should change our system. Perhaps that is a topic he feels should be taken up by others, or perhaps at a later date.

However, whether or not you have an idea of your own, give the video a watch. When you find yourself nodding your head in agreement, perhaps you will find the spark of passion inside yourself to pursue a long-buried dream.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Losing a Piece of my Soul

On June 4, 2010, in what was supposed to be a regular midwife checkup of 26 weeks, I found out that my baby's heart had stopped beating. That evening I was admitted to the hospital and labor was induced. My baby was breech, and it was an impossibly hard labor, punctuated by the words that the midwife could only do so much, or my little one would be torn in two. On June 5, 2010 at 11:00 a.m., I delivered a baby boy. I named him Alistair Magnus. He was perfect in every way, from his pale blonde hair, to his turquoise eyes, to his large hands, and his high-arched feet. On June 5, 2010, I said goodbye to the largest piece of my soul.

It is ten weeks later today, and I am a different person.

It is an impossible thing to think about burying your child, no matter how young or old. It is an impossible thing to sit on the computer designing your child's headstone, when you would rather have been picking out his going home onesie from the hospital. It is an impossible thing to face the fear of conceiving again, knowing that a perfect pregnancy, with perfect test results and a perfect ultrasound could still contain such a small imperfection in the inside of the umbilical cord that would cause a baby's death. It is an impossible thing to find hope in the maelstrom of madness and grief, especially when no one really seems to understand what you're going through.

My husband and I visit Alistair daily at the cemetery. I know that some point, our visits will not happen as often, that we may have future little ones who occupy most of our time.

But I will not forget. For when he died, he took a piece of my soul with him.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Eating While Abroad

Terry Word on has put together a top seven breakfast musts for those of you who enjoy traveling around the world. Check out his slide show for descriptions and pictures of these delectable treats; you might just find yourself searching through your pantry after.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Great Wall of China - Underwater

Three hours north of Beijing lies a very different part of the Great Wall of China - a part that is underwater. Mathieu Meur, the expedition photographer, and a team of divers, managed to capture photos of this section of the wall, despite technical difficulties. The wall begins 13 meters below the surface and extends down to 35 meters, with uncomfortable temperatures and murky water to boot. For more on their dive, as well as to see one of the photos they captured, visit's website here.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Ninjas Vs. Muggers

One of my favorite hobbies and lifetime pursuits is karate and kobudo, two Okinawan styles of martial arts. After practicing for eight years now, I am always delighted to hear stories of how martial arts can be applied in the real world. Leave it to's Weird section to regale me with a story of how a few students at a Ninja dojo in Sydney dissuaded some muggers from their task at hand. Great job to those students!

Read the story here.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Colosseum Collapse

Thankfully no tourists are allowed in the Colosseum just before dawn. Last Sunday, a chunk of mortar came falling down, buckling the netting whose job it was to protect the tourists below. Sadly this is not the first time this has happened in Rome (or in many other places in the world). Parts of Nero's Palace and the Palatine have also crumbled, and Rome is scrambling for the dollars to be able to fix these monuments before someone is seriously injured, or killed. In light of Sunday's collapse, a $8.4 million emergency restoration plan has been put in place.

"This ambitious project, set to begin later this month, again includes a much-needed exterior cleaning and replacement of key support structures - including new metal bands that hold some of the marble in place. Stone archways will be reinforced and safety netting under the fragile ancient ceilings will be updated. The area around the Colosseum will also be cordoned off, and pedestrian traffic near the monument will be restricted in case of further collapse during the work. In 2000, the city of Rome installed a gladiator exhibit on the second tier, complete with elevator and gift shop. Now, the museum and elevator will likely be removed, and parts of the ancient ampitheater will be permanently closed to the public. Plans to open the third tier and the subterranean tunnel system to attract even more visitors were also in the works before last Sunday's collapse. Those areas will likely now never be accessible to the public."

Read the entire article on here.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Virginia's Living Museum

One of a zoo's primary purposes upon their creation was to show a world of fantastical creatures from abroad so that pampered nobles never had to leave their homes. Despite the fact that zoos are now visited more by the general public than the elite, that main purpose has remained much the same. But what about the flora and fauna in your own backyard? With the trend towards expansionism, more animals flock to unusual locations causing the only time you see them when they are sadly laid out on the highway after their unfortunate demise.

That's where places such as the Virginia Living Museum come in. Located in Newport News, this museum focuses solely on the flora and fauna of Virginia. All of the animals were/are injured or bred in captivity and unable to live on their own in the wild. Separate areas inside the building are devoted to Virginia's multi-faceted eco-systems, specializing in trees and the aquatic side, including a veritable load of turtles. Outside is an extensive boardwalk/nature trail where you find yourself looking down upon sleeping foxes, climbing up rocks to view river otters at play, and wandering through marshy waters to view pelicans in the aviary as well as turtles who have made the greater museum area their home. If you've always wanted to touch one of these furry creatures from the wild in a safe manner, you might have that opportunity as well. Volunteers routinely take some of the critters out to be introduced to the public, and there's nothing as infectious as a swarm of schoolchildren clamoring that they've just touched their first skunk.

When you pay the entrance fee, you support these animals, these programs, and numerous conservation efforts. Now that's a place I don't mind paying to get into.

Visit the museum's website here.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Month of May

Most people in the Western Hemisphere associate the month of May with flowers, springtime, longer days, and general happiness. The most commonly held belief is that May takes its name from Maia, the Roman goddess of springtime, growth and increase. In pagan lore, it is the month of the sacred marriage of the Goddess and God, and in Christian, John, describes it as the month where light triumphs over darkness. But did you know that May was also considered a very unlucky month, or that it is associated with cows? The Mystical World Wide Web put together an impressive array of May lore, from pagan to Christian roots, to its association with the zodiac.

Learn something new about the month of May here.

Friday, April 30, 2010

2010 Reading List - Updated

A place to show off my varied reading habits and to star the books I particularly enjoyed, many of which will make a blog appearance. This will be updated as the year progresses.

January 2010
Empress by Karen Miller *
The Compass Rose by Gail Dayton *
The Hummingbird Wizard by Anna Blevin
Make Love...the Bruce Campbell Way by Bruce Campbell

February 2010
Strands of Starlight by Gael Baudino*
Kitty & the Dead Man's Hand by Carrie Vaughn
Marked by P.C. & Kristin Cast
Betrayed by P.C. & Kristin Cast
Kitty Raises Hell by Carrie Vaughn

March 2010
The Son of Avonar - Carol Berg
A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle
Cast in Courtlight - Michelle Sagara
Waking the Moon - Elizabeth Hand *
Silver Birch, Blood Moon - Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling, eds.

April 2010
The Odyssey - Homer
Made to Be Broken - Kelley Armstrong
Dogs and Goddesses - Jennifer Cruise, Anne Stuart, Lani Diane Rich
Poison Study - Maria Snyder *
Black Magic Sanction - Kim Harrison

May 2010
Crime Scene - Victoria Laurie
Guardians of the Keep - Carol Berg
The Reckoning - Kelley Armstrong
Undead and Unwelcome - Mary Janice Davidson

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

When Fairies and Squirrels Mix, It Can Get Bloody

Tessa Farmer, a 32-year old artist from England, has had enough of the American grey squirrel attacking the native red squirrel population, and her art shows that it's fairies behind the conflict. With amazing detail, she's crafted skeletal fairies that look like something out of the latest horror movie and their squirrel accomplices. Her art will be on display at Belsay Hall in Morpeth, Northumberland, from this Saturday until September.

See a few examples of her art here.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Federal Resources for Learning

Every once in a while I stumble upon a treasure trove of learning opportunities. Right now I am especially interested since I face the birth of my first child, and wish for him or her to have all of the opportunities and resources at his or her disposal. For children and adults of all ages wishing to complete a report on the great Renaissance artists (see Donatello's sculpture to the left), to perform research for a dissertation, to complete a lesson plan, or merely just to know something a little beyond their normal scope, you'll want to know about the following website. The U.S. government has posted a resource board for subjects ranging from zoology to foreign languages, with a lot of room in between. This is definitely a site to bookmark for either you or your children. Let the learning commence!

Go to the Federal Resources for Learning website here.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mysterious Kite Lines in Desert - Solved

In the early 20th century, British pilots discovered strange kite-like lines in the deserts of the Near East. The lines are low-lying stone walls and they converge at circular pits. For years, scientists and historians have wondered about these lines over 2000 years old, and a new study of 16 of these lines in the Sinai Desert has confirmed that these lines were used as animal traps for hooved species such as gazelle.

Read the story on Discovery News here.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Eirene: Another Face of Spring

As tulips, daffodils and hyacinths spring up around me, it is important to note that there are other Greek goddesses associated with the springtime, one of which is Eirene (Irene). One of the Horai, or seasons, she is the daughter of Zeus and Themis and is often portrayed with her two sisters, Dike (Justice) and Eunomia (Order). When she is shown alone, she typically carries Plutus, the god of wealth, as an infant. Even more so than springtime, however, Eirene is known as the goddess of peace and was often prayed too after a long campaign (many of which happened in late springtime). If you have never heard of Eirene, you may have heard of her Roman equivalent Pax, as in Pax Romana, the long period of peace experienced by Rome in the 1st and 2nd century AD.

Learn more about Eirene on here.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Science and the Shroud

One of the most controversial religious objects in the world, the Shroud of Turin has been brought out of it's treasure chest behind bullet proof glass (see photo I took on a previous visit to Turin) to be unveiled to the world. Even the pope himself will pay it a visit. Back in 1988, the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin seemingly lay put to rest after carbon dating dated it to the 14th century. However, scientists are now convinced that the dating method was flawed. Even so, many scientists believe that the fiber itself is newer than that of a fiber dating to the time around Jesus. Others sincerely argue with their faith that the technique dates to the 1st century. Regardless of your personal beliefs, read one of the latest articles about the science behind dating the shroud on BBC News here.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Where I'd Like to Go: The Beagle Bed & Breakfast

If you thought Idaho was the most well-known for potatoes, you may want to think again. Dennis and Frances, two very talented artists, created The Dog Bark Park Inn Bed & Breakfast, the perfect place to stay the night if you're near Cottonwood, Idaho. The B&B is shaped like a giant beagle (in fact, one sleeps in the muzzle), and it comes complete with a full bath, a deck, and a delicious breakfast after a great night's sleep. This B&B has been featured on numerous television shows, as well as been named one of the Top 20 Most Fun & Exciting Places to Stay by the London Times. It's close by to hiking, a wolf research center, and whitewater rafting, the perfect place to get away and relax.

Check out the beagle for yourself on their website here.
Image taken from the Dog Bark Park's Website.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Farm Animals Attacked in Shropshire

Although aliens are not exactly classified under the same umbrella as mythology, the amount of theories surrounding their existence, methods, and culture can compete with Bullfinch's Mythology. This latest story on's Weird section had me giggling, with no offense to the farmers who lost their animals. Farmers in Shropshire claim that aliens have been roaming a 50-mile corridor for the last 50 or so years. That's quite impressive, however, it leaves me thinking...after collecting that many livestock, surely the aliens would have moved on by now?

Read the story for yourself here.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Darker Side of Fairy Tales - Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling's Series

Fairy tales have long captivated the hearts and imaginations of children and adults of all ages. It is because we see magic, princesses obtaining their dreams, and hope. Fairy tales haven't often had this Disney-fied appearance, however, as anyone who has read the original Grimm Brothers tales knows. These stories were originally meant for adults as morality But somewhere in between the sparkles of Cinderella's dress and the bloody tales of exactly how Cinderella's sisters got their foot to fit in the magical shoe, there is a world ripe for authors to recreate and remold. Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling's series of short stories collect just those, the stories in between, some of which still have happy endings, some of which do not, and do more to teach us about ourselves. I had "Silver Birch, Blood Moon" for years, and just recently getting around to reading it, I found stories by currently well-known authors with tales of their own such as Neil Gaiman, Anne Bishop and Patricia A. McKillip. Pick up one of these wonderful anthologies and let yourself be swept back into your childhood, but this time, remember to keep the lights on.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Colchester's Become an Archaeologist for the Day

If you're anywhere near Colchester, England and have any dreams of living as an archaeologist for the day, now's your chance. Colchester's Archaeological Trust is holding a two-tiered photography competition, one for 11-16 year olds, and one for 16 years and up. The aim is to encourage people to discover Colchester on a deeper level. Deadline for submissions is August 1st.

Read the full article and find out how to enter the competition on the Daily Gazette's website here.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Egypt's Avenue of Sphinxes Now Open

If you visit Karnak and Luxor, two of Egypt's most impressive temples and tourist attractions, you will no doubt see a portion of the Avenue of Sphinxes. Once upon a time the Avenue of Sphinxes joined the two locations, providing a processional route between summer and winter palaces. Built over 3000 years ago, this Avenue has been weathered by it's most ancient enemy, sand. However, archaeologists have been working hard to uncover the first portion of the two-mile stretch and it is now open to the public. Unfortunately, the opening of the Avenue had drawn much international controversy, because in the rush to open the Avenue, many potential archaeological sites have been destroyed.

Read the story in the UK's Times Online here.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Persephone: Heralding in Spring

At this time of the year, around the Spring Equinox, and thankfully, as the crocuses are finally beginning to bloom, I am reminded of Persephone, the Greek Goddess who represents Springtime. Despite the fact that she is often depicted covered with flowers, she is also known as the Queen of the Underworld. Often the Greek Gods and Goddesses are depicted in this dual manner, showing their light and their dark sides. Even Persephone's entrance into the Underworld is seen in a dual light. In one, she gladly strides into the Underworld, becomes Hades' bride and co-rules with him, sorting out the souls. In another, she is abducted, and it is this image that is most commonly viewed in painting and sculpture.

Laura Strong has a reinterpretation of the former myth, one where Persephone takes matters into her own hand. Read the story, read her interpretation, and check out her sources on Mythic Arts site here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A New Trick for the Alpaca

In Peru, an alpaca named Pisco is making the news, or rather, riding the waves. Domingo Pianezzi has surfed with a variety of animals, but has now moved on to the alpaca. This is one of those ridiculously cute photos, not only because the alpaca is on a surfboard, but also because it is wearing surfgear. I suppose it's a good things alpacas can't talk, because I could guess what this one would say...

Photo taken from's website. See the full story here.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Anglo Saxons Get A-Head

Typically when one reads a story about Vikings, the story is about the poor village/town/community that was ransacked, razed, pillaged (need I continue?). This archaeological discovery caught my attention because here, the victims are the Vikings themselves, in fact, young men around 20-30 years old. Even more notable than their age is the fact that they are all missing their heads.

According to BBC News, "Archaeologists from Oxford believe the men were probably executed by local Anglo Saxons in front of an audience sometime between AD 910 and AD 1030." There are fifty-one of these skeletons so far, and with that, it makes it one of the largest mass burials of executed foreigners. They were discovered in Weymouth Ridgeway, where Anglo Saxons were increasingly at the mercy of the Vikings.

Apparently they found a way to stand together and remove the threat.

Read the full story here.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Where I'd Like to Go: Arizona's "The Wave"

A product of wind, rain and time, "The Wave" is located close to where Arizona and Utah meet. Made of sandstone, and incredibly fragile, the rock itself seems to undulate and shift like the ocean. This is one of the rare places where earth and water are one. The trek to find The Wave is what draws hikers to this location from all around the world. Only twenty permits per day are given out for the privilege, ten by reservation, and ten by lottery that morning. For those who succeed in getting a permit, it is a three mile hike each way across open desert with a 350 foot climb. There is no formal trail to The Wave, and many of those who gain permits, never actually find it. Something to check off of my list indeed.
Photo courtesy of

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Eggshells: A New Form of Communication

According to researchers, a recently collected cache of ostrich eggshells were used as symbolic methods of communication among African hunter-gathers 60,000 years ago. These shells have been collected over a period of the last few years at Diepkloof Rock Station in South Africa by the University of Bordeaux. Two hundred and seventy in all, this is a large enough sample to demonstrate that Stone Age people created design traditions. Some of these eggshells also have holes in them, demonstrating that they were used as canteens.

Read about the eggshell cache and see a sample of the finds on here.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Where I'd Like to Go: Australia's Lajamanu

A remote village in the Australian desert has once again witnessed an event that could be comparable to the phrase "raining cats and dogs". But this time it was fish that rained upon the small village, spangled perch to be more specific. These perch are common to Australia, but not in Lajamanu. The nearest perch to this remote location is over 326 miles away. Even more impressive is that the fish were alive when they hit the ground. Australian meteorologists are chalking this up to conditions that were perfect for a tornado and lifted the fish up in the air to deposit them somewhere else.

Read about it on's weird section here.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Chestita Baba Marta!

The Balkan Heritage Field School sent me this interesting tidbit about Bulgarian culture and one of their ancient pagan customs.

These first few days of March will see the Bulgarians wearing red and white in deference to Baba Marta, a grumpy old lady whose mood swings symbolize the end of winter and beginning of spring. Bulgarians exchange red and white tassels and small dolls called Pizho and Penda in the hopes of bringing each other good fortune and happiness. They also wish to appease Baba Marta so that she will bring spring faster.

These dolls, depending on where you live in Bulgaria, are removed in a ritualistic fashion. Some hang them on trees to give the tree health and some hide them under a rock with the idea that the person/animal to be closest to the rock will determine the giver's health for the season.

Wikipedia has a great article about Martenitsa. Read about it here.

Thursday, February 25, 2010 Spain?

Something about Atlantis tickles the imagination: a lost city, held captive by the sea, with vast riches awaiting discovery. One of the newest theories as to Atlantis's discovery rests in the hands of a team of Spain's Higher Council for Scientific Study who are examining a marshy portion of the currently known Donana National Park.

So what makes this a candidate for Atlantis? It seems as if this site was home to the Tartessians, a culture that predates the Phoenicians by a significant amount of time. Not only that, but this site was destroyed by a tsunami. Aerial photos are starting to produce circular and rectangular areas that couldn't possibly have been made by nature.

Read the full story in the Telegraph here.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bristol University's Dig for the Homeless

Dr. Mark Horton, with a team of Bristol University students, recently recruited a team of homeless as a part of a wider project looking at the history and modern homelessness. The team aims to look at patterns of behavior and culture in "rough sleepers". The dig took part on Turbo Island in Bristol, an area currently a place of refuge for the homeless, but historically a place with a lot of interesting stories, including a place where pirates were hanged. Co-leader of the project John Schofield put it perfectly when he said, "Heritage can and should be for everyone." I can't think of a better way to get people involved in meaningful work that will be for the good of the human race to come.

Read the story at Bristol University's website here.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Marked by P.C. & Kristin Cast

I've always been a fan of P.C. Cast's Goddess books, so I thought I would try her and her daughter's YA series, The House of Night. As with many of the YA series available right now, the main character is a vampire, and Marked is her struggle from becoming a vampire to starting to find herself.

In Marked, vampyres (spelled with a y, and not an i) are made by being marked with an outline of a crescent moon. Full vampyres, if they survive "the Change", end up with a fully colored moon, as well as intricate and unique tattoos around the face and eyes. Vampyres are a part of normal society; it's almost a given that you will know one. Many of the famous actors and actresses are vampyres (any of them with talent and a copious dash of good looks), and this is taken as fact by the normal populace. Being marked comes with a price, however. The main character, Zooey, must leave her normal life and family behind to move in to the House of Night where she will train to become a vampyre, or she will die.

Many people equate this series to Twilight by Stephanie Meyer, full of teen angst. While the angst does exist, the spiritual quest of the main character is what sets it apart for me and gives it a more adult feel. Nyx, the Greek Goddess of the Night, is the patron goddess of the vampyres, and she speaks specifically to Zooey, urging her to be her eyes and ears. This is definitely a hard task for a teenage girl who is surrounded by catty classmates, too cute boys, and a blossoming bloodlust. The school is well thought out with it's nighttime classes, which includes fencing and equestrian lessons instead of the typical gym class, and health food in order to keep the young fledgling vampyres in tip-top shape. Each of them has a mentor to guide them through the process, and a roommate in which to confide.

A quick, fun ride, with a steamier, stormier edge than many of the YA books on the market, Marked is definitely worth a read. And if you like it, move on to Betrayed, it's sequel.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Basic Phrases a Traveler Should Know

Guten Tag! Merci! Sumimasen! Grazie!
You don't have to be fluent in a non-native language to travel. But if you're traveling to a non-native language speaking country for any length of time, even with dictionary in hand, a few memorized words and phrases will make your journey a lot more enjoyable. If you're one of those unlucky people who has a difficult time learning languages, then make a cheat sheet for yourself. I've typed some words out and laminated them in a size that fits easily in my travel wallet. When you travel to another country, you're a diplomat. You may be the only person from your country who has ever visited. Knowing the words and phrases below will help the locals view you as a responsible world traveler, and a credit to your home country.

* Hello/Good Morning/Good Afternoon
* Goodbye
* Thank you
* Excuse me
* Please
* Do you speak (insert language here)?
* I don't speak (insert language here).
* I would like... (you can always point!)
* Where is... (name your favorite destination or attraction...or missing family member!)
* Bathroom/Toilet
* How much?
* One
* Two
* Help!
* I cannot/do not eat... (meat, gluten, insects, etc.)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Strands of Starlight by Gael Baudino

In order to ensure that I read both older and newer books in my ever growing library, I force myself to read one book from each shelf of my double bookcase, moving in a clockwise fashion. I am always pleased when a book on my older fantasy shelf turns out to be such a delightful story. This one was full of revenge, change, and redemption, a perfect coming-of-age story, albeit the main character is eighteen and vehemently protests she is not a child at every turn.

Strands of Starlight follows the tale of a young healer, persecuted in the age of the Inquisition for having abilities she must have received from the devil. When the story begins, she is on the run after committing a daring escape from the torture chamber, especially given the physical and emotion damage that has been wrought upon her. Her escape is hampered by her being a slave to her healing powers; if she sees someone in need of healing, she must help or face the dire consequences of her body betraying her. Unfortunately it's during one of these healings that a man that she saves does not treat her as kindly. Vowing revenge, she flees to the Free Towns, where people like her are at worst, watched, but at best, they are appreciated for the gifts that they bring. The people she meets in these towns begin to touch her life, and bring a flicker of happiness and redemption to that dark spot that only wants revenge.

Strands of Starlight meshes the human and elvish populations in one of the friendliest pairings I've seen. Although the inquisitors fear and despise the elves, the other humans respect and are in awe of them. The interesting part is how the elves treat the humans. Often in fantasy, elves are seen as self-centered or isolated, sticking to themselves fully and letting the humans get what they deserve. Here they are helpful and care deeply about the humans, going out of their way to help, keep the peace, and heal the ill.

Strands of Starlight is a charming and often heart-breaking tale of a young woman who needs to find herself. It is a story of distrust turning to trust, of selfishness turning to selflessness, and of hate turning to love. And despite the lack of a steamy romance, finding love for others is a perfect lesson to remember for the upcoming Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Gods & Goddesses of Love Around the World

Most Greek and Roman mythology buffs are familiar with Eros, Aphrodite, and Venus as the embodiments and deities of love. However, there are many other gods and goddesses around the world and throughout history who have worn the mantle. So, in the spirit of Valentine's Day, whether you enjoy spending time with your loved one(s), decorating your house with Hallmark kitsch, or simply embracing the multitudinous aspects of love, fertility, devotion, and adoration, I went looking for a list of those deities who have been associated with love around the world. I stumbled across this astounding (but admittedly not comprehensive) list of the gods and goddesses of love. May it inspire you to have a happy and safe Valentine's Day, no matter your beliefs or culture.

Click here to visit Cave of the Word Witch's Temple of Love.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Yorkshire Pheasant on a Rampage

Apparently I am often in the wrong place at the wrong time, and therefore miss out on opportunities to see not only a crazed pheasant chasing after prams, but local dogs running away with their tails between their legs. Bird behavior during breeding season can be unpredictable for humans at best, and one Yorkshire town has fallen victim to a pheasant who has committing terror attacks on its residents for over a month.

Read about the unpleasant pheasant on's Weird section

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Where I'd Like to Go: Antarctica's "Blood Falls"

I've barely scratched the surface of the Earth for places that I'd like to see before I die, but as I hunt around the internet for new experiences, I thought I'd post some of the more awe-inspiring and ones that make me want to run screaming from cubicle-land and into the next adventure.

Unfortunately I don't know much about Antarctica, other than it's home to ice, and lots of it. Apparently, however, it's also home to "Blood Falls", an underground iron-rich lake that occasionally makes its way to the surface, appearing to bleed through the ice. A new study has found microbes living in this most inhospitable of climates, and some hope that it may be a precursor to finding life under icecaps on Mars and Europa.

See a picture of this beautiful phenomenon, as well as learn a little more on Discover Magazine's 80beats blog here.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Future Archaeology Digs on the Moon?

Apollo 11's journey home involved the transport of moon rocks and soil samples. In order to make room for the weight of these objects, the crew was forced to abandon a veritable treasure trove of space goodies from cameras, space boots, armrests, and even bags of human waste. There are a growing amount of sites around the world awarded some type of protection so that history does not become, well, history. But until now, this protection has been limited to this planet. That may be about to change, for California is to be the first state to register the items from Trinity Base as as official State Historical Resource. Can archaeological digs in space be a part of our future? Once can only hope.

Read the full article in the Los Angeles Times here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Pregnancy Myths Around the World

With the sheer number of friends and co-workers that are turning up pregnant, I thought I would take a look at pregnancy myths and advise from around the world. Here are some of the more flavorful words of wisdom:

* Many Japanese women are told not to look at fire while pregnant, or their child will be born with a birthmark

* A tip of a rainbow upon your house foretells the impending birth of a baby boy

* If you're Portuguese, you may be advised to eat cucumbers if you want a boy, and an apple if you want a girl. The trick is in the shape of the food.

* But if you're Spanish, don't eat cucumbers, or you could give your child a healthy dose of "the wind"

* In Ancient Egypt, most women delivered their babies by kneeling or squatting on the ground

* In many African cultures, you don't want anyone rubbing your stomach, it's akin to someone trying to steal your baby

* Australian aborigines believed that if you stood under mistletoe, a child's spirit would drop into you and you would become pregnant

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tempest Rising by Nicole Peeler

With the plethora of vampires, werewolves and witches taking over the urban fantasy market, I was once again happy to see a heroine of a different sort - a selkie. Selkies are primarily found in Irish and Scottish lore and are often depicted as women who shed their seal skins to become human, if only for enough time to find a human mate before returning to the sea.

Jane True is the product of one of these unions, and as such has never had an easy time living in her little podunk town where everyone knows everything about everybody. What she doesn't realize, is that the supernatural are all around her in the form of the usual vampires and shapeshifters, but also gnomes, and other spirits not often visited in the paranormal realm. Following Jane's story as she learns her true identity, and that of her other townsfolk is lighthearted and fun, especially due to Jane's frequent internal ramblings about her libido and her common sense. And of course, there's Ryu, the strong, sexy vampiric hero whose darkness juxtaposes Jane's lightness quite easily. Ryu is Jane's tourguide through the supernatural, and between him and Jane's steadfast friend Anyan, Jane will undoubtedly have many decisions to make in future books in the series.

If you're fond of the Sookie Stackhouse series, and looking for something to distract you until the next book in the series, this is a definite must read.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Trip Report: Oxford's Christ Church

It feels a bit like a castle walking through the buildings of Christ Church, yellowing stone walls, uneven pavement, and drafty halls. But it's actually a thriving college, full of student life and activity. For eight pounds, I decided to take a closer look at Christ Church, one of Oxford's most well known colleges, and its largest, and home to the creative mind of pen-named writer Lewis Carroll. Portions of the well-known Harry Pottery movies have been filmed here as well.

Many parts of the college are off-limits to visitors in order to keep the students hassle-free, however, the parts that visitors are able to access are a treat in and of themselves. Stickin
g to the tour route, which is marked as well as described in your pamphlet, the first place you visit is The Hall, where students continue to eat today. Castle life springs to mind with long wooden tables and benches stretching out before you and large stained glass masterpieces letting in a rainbow of color. The lighting fixtures above are candle-laden iron monstrosities which only add to the charm. The walls are bedecked with the Who's Who of Christ Church, including a portrait of Elizabeth I and Henry VIII. One of the windows has the characters from "Alice in Wonderland" dancing across the bottom, and a small door set in the wall in the front of the hall set the stage for the white rabbit's escape.

Other places you visit on your tour include Christ Church Cathedral, much of which is
built in late Norman style. This was originally the priory of St. Frideswide, the patron saint of Oxford. Her shrine still stands here today, and in the past, it was a major pilgrimage site. The stained glass windows here are stunning, and at its center is a rose window that makes you catch your breath. Within the Cathedral are numerous tombs which are worth a look for their eloquent language and carvings alone.

Leaving the Cathedral, there are several beautiful photo opportunities of the different quads, perfectly cut grass and cobble-stoned pathways before you. The largest quad comes complete with a Hermes statue about to take flight. On the way out, don't miss the tree hanging over the wall. It was here that the dean's daughter's cat played, the cat which eventually became the Cheshire Cat from "Alice in Wonderland". And after leaving Christ Church's beautiful grounds, you may even join him in a toothy grin.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Trip Report: Bath's Vegetarian Pub "The Porter"

Billed as Bath's only vegetarian pub, The Porter has a lot to offer. First, it's not far from the main tourist attractions (in fact, it's on the way to the Circus and Royal Crescent). Second, it's easy to spot. Third, it has lunch specials for only five quid which include a drink. But it's the charm and the delicious food of this place that made my husband and I eat here twice on our visit.

The Porter has your typical pub fare: sandwiches, toasties, pies, jacket potatoes and chips galore. For lunch I tried the cheese and chutney toastie with a side of chips. Simple and delicious, the toastie came with a spot of salad and cole slaw, a nice creamy accompaniment. I tried the golden hare, one of the local brews on tap and found it light and refreshing. For dinner, I opted for my first welsh rarebit, vegetarian style. The Porter's rarebit is served on perfectly warmed naan bread with a hint of curry. With a plate of chips with freshly shredded cheese and a half pint of cider, I was a happy woman. My husband tried out the mushroom pie. Although the filling was a bit too mushy for my taste, the pie itself was a flaky delight. It came served with hand mashed potatoes. He taste tested the four cheese pizza for dinner, and this came Italian style, thin-crust with generous portions of cheese.

The Porter also has live music, open mic nights and stand-up comedy on Sundays in their cellar, all of which are free. Sadly we weren't around long enough to partake, but if I ever visit Bath again, I'm going back and you'll see me in the cellar, cider in hand.

See the menu and learn more about The Porter here.