Monthly Archives: October 2017



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tombstone tourists

Taphophilia Origin: Ancient Greek τάφος (taphos, “funeral rites”, “burial”, “funeral”, “wake”; “tomb”, “grave”) + English -philia (from the Ancient Greek φιλία (philia), philia, “love”, “fondness”)

If wandering through cemeteries, imagining the lives of those who lay beneath the poems and quotes, and taking pictures of the tombstones is something that someone you know enjoys, s/he just might have a mild case of taphophilia. Also called a “tombstone tourist,” or a “cemeterian,” or even a “cemetery hunter,” the people afflicted with this don’t seem to suffer from it. Quite the contrary, they find walking through a cemetery to be the most peaceful of hobbies. What’s not to love? Trees, peace, quiet, maybe even a rest beneath a tree. Or perhaps the contemplation of life itself while leaning up against a … beautifully carved rock.

Glasnevin Cemetery by William Murphy via Wikimedia Commons

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Hear Ye!

Welcome New Sisters! (click for current roster)

Merit Badge Awardees (click for latest awards)

My featured Merit Badge Awardee of the Week is Martha Koukios!

Martha Koukios (Martha K, #508) has received a certificate of achievement in Stitching & Crafting for earning a Beginner Level Sew Wonderful Merit Badge!

“I put together a sewing kit in a canning jar, and made a pinkeeper out of the top. I included straight pins and needles, scissors, assorted buttons and thread colors, safety pins, measuring tape, and a thimble.

It came out very nice. I am partial to bees, so I made the pinkeeper out of a beehive fabric.”

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Dangerous Fashion

Throughout the years of history, fashion and style have had some odd and peculiar moments. The things we do for beauty aren’t just inconvenient, weird, and trendy, they are sometimes downright dangerous.

Death by style?

It’s happened …

  • In the 17th century, King Louis XIII of France began to go bald. Being rather inventive and a trend-setter (he was, after all, the king), he led the fashion march towards ornate, gigantic, powdered wigs. They became so large that some ladies and gentlemen had to sleep sitting up so as not to disturb the tower upon their head. For 17th-century noblemen and women (not known for their hygiene), these wigs were a nightmare of infestations and disease. Lice were common … as were trapped mice!

Louis XIV and His Family, unknown artist, via Wikimedia Commons.

  • Nowadays, women flock to unhealthy tanning beds, or the more cancer-free sunless tanners. But that’s a recent phenomenon: until about 100 years ago, the paler and more lily-white a lady’s skin was, the more desirable. This led to lead-based paints the women used on their faces, causing side-effects like migraines, high blood pressure, miscarriage, confusion, nausea, rotting teeth, and even death.
  • The rumors of “rib removal” have been circling around since Victorian times. After all, how did those women get such tiny waists, even with their abominable corsets? Legend has it, it was from removing their floating ribs—the ones that protect the back organs but not the front—and these rumors are still floating around today, especially in the world of celebrities.
  • Stiff, high collars for men in the 16th century seem innocent enough. (Their lady friends found necks irresistible, it seems.) But as benign as they might appear, they were cinched so tightly that many a man asphyxiated slowly. That this allegedly happened mostly at the pub may have played a factor.
  •  We can’t help it: We girls love our mascara and eyelash serums, even false lashes, just to make our baby blues appear larger. But back-in-the-day (up until this century), women used belladonna. Yes, deadly nightshade. It dilated their pupils, making them look big and beautiful. If blindness, coma, and death came calling, at least they left a pretty corpse, I guess.
  • If lead paint makes you squeamish, you can try arsenic for your skin. “Dr. Mackenzie’s Improved Harmless Arsenic Complexion Wafers will produce the most lovely complexion that the imagination could desire, clear, fresh, free from blotch, blemish, coarseness, redness, freckles, or pimples,” states a box of one of the most popular beauty pills in the 19th century. Side effects included vomiting, internal bleeding, hair loss, and (you guessed it) death.
  • Arsenic wasn’t just used for the skin, it was also used to color dresses and hats green. Until poor Matilda Scheurer, a 19-year-old artificial-flower maker, died of “accidental” poisoning in 1861, it was common practice. The formerly healthy young woman worked in central London, along with 100 other employees. She “fluffed” artificial leaves, dusting them with an attractive green powder that she inhaled with every breath and ate off her hands at each meal. We won’t subject you to the details, but her death was not pleasant and involved nearly every part of her body turning green, including her fingernails.
  • Celluloid combs were a common, and deadly, accessory for men and women (men used them for their beards). These combs could combust and explode in the heat. In Pittsburgh, an entire comb factory exploded.

  • You’ve heard the expression “mad as a hatter,” right? It’s been around since before Alice in Wonderland’s author, Lewis Carroll, made it popular. But there is a reason for the description: mercury was put in men’s hats in the 18th and 19th centuries, and as we know now, that’s a big no-no. The slow seeping of poison led to “mad hatter disease”: tremors, irritability, and oddly enough, pathological shyness. Remember how eccentric the hatter was at that tea party? It was hardly his fault he was so edgy and paranoid.
  • Hoop and crinoline skirts weren’t just cumbersome and awkward (imagine trying to get through a narrow doorway or sneak by an annoying party guest); they could also kill you. It was not remotely unusual for the highly combustible hoops and flowing fabric to catch fire from the candles and oil lamps of the day. Even Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poor wife, Fanny, met her end this way.

A Splendid Spread by George Cruikshank, from The Comic Almanack, 1850, via Wikimedia Commons.

So while skinny jeans, underwire bras, and high heels may be uncomfortable, count your blessings. Beauty may be pain, but we’ll stick to our flannel shirts and broken-in jeans, thank you.

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Young Cultivator Merit Badge: All Dried Up, Expert Level

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 7,466 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—10,836 total! Take it away, MBA Jane!!! ~MaryJane 

Wondering who I am? I’m Merit Badge Awardee Jane (MBA Jane for short). In my former life   

For this week’s Farm Kitchen/All Dried Up Young Cultivator Expert Level Merit Badge, Nora and I went on a mad, crazed, no-holds-barred shopping trip for herbs.

I know, you can’t stop us nutty herbivores. We’re obsessed with fresh plants!

There were a few still growing in my garden, so of course we took advantage of those as well, but we wanted to expand our culinary palates too, and that required a bit of supermarket and farm stand browsing. After an afternoon of odoriferous gathering, we had a basket of fresh greenery that would make Rapunzel swoon with envy.


Our bounty:

  • Mint
  • Parsley
  • Cilantro
  • Rosemary
  • Chives
  • Oregano
  • Basil
  • Lavender
  • Thyme
  • Chamomile
  • Sage
  • Lemon balm
  • Coriander
  • Chervil
  • Bay
  • Dill

Next up, after washing our delicate pretties, we hung some of the herbs up to dry, and thought about what to do with the rest. We came up a couple ideas: compound butters to give as gifts, and frozen oils to keep for cooking.

For the frozen herbs, it’s simple. Use ice cube trays and separate your herbs into the cubes. Drizzle with olive oil and freeze. When you need an herb for say, spaghetti sauce or soup, just pop out the one of your choice!

For the compound butters, we mixed our herbs with softened butter. Roll into a log using wax paper and refrigerate. Tie with a pretty ribbon and these make great gifts for a housewarming present (add a loaf of French bread). They are also yummy melted on top of a steak or broiled on a piece of fish or chicken.

Just the thought made our mouths water, so we made ourselves some fresh iced tea with mint leaves and invented our own recipe using Nora’s personal favorite herb of choice: dill.

Nora’s Dill Pickle Dip

  • One block of organic cream cheese, OR half a block cream cheese plus 1/2 cup sour cream (could substitute Greek yogurt as well)
  • Several splashes of dill-pickle juice
  • 1/2 cup chopped dill pickles (homemade if you’ve got ’em!)
  • A handful of fresh dill

Mix thoroughly and refrigerate to thicken slightly. Serve with crackers and iced tea with mint.

Try it with your dill-pickle fans. It’s dill-icious!

Once our herbs had finished drying (you can speed up the process by using a food dehydrator or your oven, but we enjoyed the look of the pantry once we had hung all of our bunches upside down using clothesline), we pinched off the leaves and packaged them in jars. Voila! Fresh herbs for all our friends to last even when the garden has been plundered.

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