Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Scariest Hallowe'en Ever!

 As a kid, we didn't do a whole lot of Trick or Treating in the sleepy suburbs of Manchester, England. It just wasn't celebrated over there like it is over here. Okay, so we did dress up in cool handmade costumes for parties, but we didn't go door to door for hours on end, collecting giant garbage bags full of candy. We just stuck around our street, well after dark, and dared each other to venture through the wrought iron gates of Urmston Cemetery, tucked into the shadows at the end of our little cul-de-sac (aka NO WAY OUT!)   

But this isn't a spooky tale about the cemetery, although I do have a few of those, too. I didn't even have to leave the comfort of our red-bricked Victorian house to scare the pants off myself. This is because there was plenty of paranormal activity going on within the walls of our home. That's right, I grew up in a haunted house.

When you're raised in house where strange creaks, late night groans and pipes pop and squeal in the night you don't pay too much attention to the 'other stuff' until you're old enough to realize you can't explain these strange sounds to your friends. It's more THEIR terror that brings on your own. That's what happened one night, when I had a couple of friends sleep over.

I'd followed the usual routine of brushing my teeth without looking up at the square attic trapdoor in the ceiling above the bathroom sink. It was one of those things you know NOT to do, but never think about why.

Kinda like how everyone in my house flew up the last 6 stairs, then catapulted themselves from the top stair into their bedrooms and slammed the door shut...again, habitual behavior that none of us questioned. We did the same thing going downstairs, only we'd skip the last 5 stairs entirely and just leap to the bottom, swing around the wooden bannister, then run into whatever room we were headed, slam the door shut and settle down, oblivious to our acrobatics. It was definitely Pavlovian behavior.

So on this night, we were whispering and giggling about god knows what when the creaking started. I ignored it, of course, but my friends stared at the corner of my bedroom where a small door hid a marvelous fat pipe around which I dried my socks and underwear. My dad had installed our heating system and ran the pipe from the furnace in the kitchen up through floor in the corner of my room, and up into the attic.

"What the...?" Rachel gasped, pulling the covers up to her chin.

"What is that?" asked Cathy, mirroring Rachel.

I glanced at the cupboard door and shrugged. "Oh, it's just the stools rocking in the kitchen. They'll settle down eventually."

As I said, it was my friends' reaction to my nonchalance that opened Pandora's Box.

"What do you mean, rocking?" Rachel pressed.

I had to think about my answer. "I don't know. They just bang around down there until I fall asleep. You can hear them better if you open the cupboard door." 

"Go on then," Cathy urged. "Let's hear it."

I opened the door and we all stuck our heads in the cupboard, straining to see if we could catch a glimpse of the stool party through the big gap in the floor around the pipe. It was definitely much louder.

Rachel backed away and looked somewhat unsettled but Cathy was positively excited. "Shit. This is great stuff!"

It is?

"So what else goes on?" she asked, clearly hoping for more.

I sat on the bed and got comfortable. "Well, we used to wake up to find the attic trapdoor leaning against the front door every morning, until dad put a lock on it."

Rachel's eyes widened.

"Go on," Cathy grinned. "What else?"

"There's an old woman who stands on the landing, just behind the stairs," I continued, slowly connecting the dots between the strange nighttime noises of our house. "You can't really see her, but you know she's there, just watching."

I felt a chill creep up my neck as I recalled all the times I'd been afraid to look up at that one spot near my brother's bedroom door, where the blankets were stored in an old chest. It always made my skin prickle to walk passed it, and none of us lingered there for longer than a few seconds. But this was the first time I really considered why.

"Let's go see them stools," Cathy suggested, already heading to the door.

We crept across the landing outside my bedroom, taking care not to glance into the bathroom, just in case the attic door had escaped its lock. When we reached the top of the stairs we all froze. There was that cold feeling again. I wasn't used to fighting it, but my friends were feeling it for the first time so I forced myself to stay put.

"Can anyone see the ghost?" Rachel asked, peering across to the other landing that ran behind the stairs.

"No," I replied, "but I can feel her."

"Me too!" Cathy yelped, starting an avalanche of bodies fleeing down the stairs.

We smashed into each other at the bottom, careful not to scream in case this made the ghost chase us. I don't why we thought we'd be safer if we kept quiet, it's not like ghosts can't walk through walls or anything.

I led the way to the kitchen door, beyond which the stools were rocking and scraping all over the linoleum floor. We always shut this door tight before going to bed, so it wasn't easy to push it open without making a loud creaking sound. We held our breaths as I pressed my body against the door and tried to hold the handle to control the creak....

It didn't work. The door flew open and the racket stopped within a nano second. Faced with nothing but a cold, eerie silence we stared into the room, then stared at each other, then screamed and flew back up the stairs. I think I beat my own record in how many stairs I managed to skip, and how quickly my bedroom door was slammed shut.

About 10 minutes later we were back on the landing, peering into the darkness of the bathroom.

"Go on, just unlock it," Cathy said, her voice still shaking a little.

I climbed on the stool that sat next to the towel rack and felt for the slide lock my dad had secured to the attic trapdoor. "Are you sure you won't run off and leave me up here on my own?"

Rachel and Cathy shook their head, their eyes and mouths wide open.

I felt the lock let go just as the door flipped upward and banged hard against the side of the small square door frame. I hadn't pushed it - it had been yanked away from me by something that felt a LOT stronger than I was. This time I didn't stifle my screams, nor did my friends.

I hit the floor before the stool did and was on my bed, under my quilt with Rachel and Cathy beside me, shrieking and giggling like hyenas.

"Your F.....g house is haunted!" Cathy yelled. "This is the scariest Halloween ever!"

We slept with the light on that night. I never did understand why all our racous hadn't woken up anyone else in the house.

Perhaps they were all just used to the noise and had slept right through it.

Happy Hallowe'en :)

PS Remember to leave a comment below about YOUR scariest Hallowe'en ever to enter to win a FREE listing in the CWO BOOKSHELF!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Join Us For A Trick-or-Treat Blog Hop!

Get Ready - Get Set - Trick-or-Treat!

The CWO team are joining author Katie O'Sullivan for our first ever TRICK OR TREAT Blog Hop. Our theme? Hallowe'en - what else?

By registering for this Blog Hop you will be invited to go from blog-to-blog on Oct. 30th and 31st to read spooky tales and enter to win fun TREATS or prizes...the reader who wins our CWO TREAT will get a FREE LISTING ON OUR CWO BOOKSHELF in the upcoming Holiday Edition!

Think of it like your old fashioned TRICK OR TREAT, only this time you don't have to traipse up and down long, dark, scary streets in silly outfits that freeze your (insert noun) off! You don't even have to leave your house, which means you won't miss those cute little beggars in bumblebee costumes who may come knocking on YOUR door...

Here's how to enter to win our CWO TREAT: Become a Follower of this blog - yep, that's it! Enter a comment in the Comment box below our Halloween blog entry (which will go live at midnight on Oct 30th) and tell us about your spookiest Hallowe'en ever. We will select a winner to be posted on November 2nd.

If you're already one of our Blog Followers then hop over to our CWO Facebook page and Like that instead :) Leave a comment below our Hallowe'en Post (posted on Oct 30th & 31st) telling us about your spookiest Hallowe'en ever...same deal as above so you all have an equal chance of winning :)

Registration is easy - just click on the link below to go to the Blog Hop instructions on Katie's blog, where you will register using a nifty LinkyTools form. As the blog tour is only for two days (Oct 30th - 31st) be sure to write your blog post ahead of time so that it's ready to go live on Wed. 30th.

WARNING - our Hallowe'en Blog Post is a TRUE STORY about something VERY SPOOKY that happened in the home of yours truly...hint...there's a reason I LOVE horror movies...I grew up in a haunted house...! 

CLICK HERE TO READ THE INSTRUCTIONS AND TO REGISTER: (You can still register after the 27th so ignore the closing date...)

See you on the Blog Hop!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Chilly? Warm up with a CWO Reader's Butternut Bisque Recipe

From Gail’s Kitchen: Butternut Bisque

1 large can (or more if you're feeding a lot) of chicken broth OR veggie broth, or water & bouillon cube(s)
3 large carrots (peeled and cut into large pieces)
3 stalks celery (cut into large pieces)
1 large vidalia onion (peeled and cut into chunks)
1 butternut squash (peel and seed, cut into large pieces)
cayenne pepper
sea salt
sour cream

Put chicken broth (or whatever) in large pot and put on medium
Add  carrots, celery & onion to broth.  
Simmer until carrots are almost done.  
Add butternut squash to broth. 
When the squash is done, let the whole darn thing get cold!  
When it's cold, run it through a blender in small batches.  
Reheat and season with cayenne pepper and sea salt. (You could also use ginger or curry.)  
When it's hot serve in cups and garnish with a dollop of sour cream.

Without the sour cream, this is a ZERO points soup, according to Weight Watchers. 
There is not an ounce of fat in it!

Enjoy, Gail :)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Stunning Fall Sunsets

We are all moving ever closer to lives anchored in a digital world. Who doesn't send one-line messages to family members on birthdays instead of mailing cheesy cards these days? And a gift is now just a click away - no tape or wrapping paper required.

It's no secret that Facebook (and its social media buddies) can be a real time vacuum. But are we really connecting with each other? 

When something happens to really grab you, what do you do? You want to tell somebody, right? It's human nature to share our stories and our experiences in life. Writers, artists and musicians have been communicating their emotions socially for centuries. The digital world has become a place where lives can connect instantaneously in ways that reach far beyond the keyboard. If you look out the window to see an amazing sunset, for example, the social media black hole can suddenly become a goldmine of images like these.

Last night's sunset was one of the most beautiful I've ever seen - and I wasn't even at the beach! I was sitting at my dining table catching up on a week-long back log of CWO emails and social media posts. When I glanced through the window I caught a blood red glow sinking behind the trees. It took me seconds to post an alert on Facebook about the sunset: Is anyone else seeing this blood red sky??? My page immediately lit up with stunning photographs of the light show.
These three photo's came from Paige Riley's cell phone. Here's what she posted on her Facebook page when I asked if I could share her pics:  

It was quite incredible.. I raced to the beach to catch the end! I wanted that fire! Unfortunately my panoramic pics didn't come out... Share away! The more people get to see that love, the better! Xo
Facebook is a great tool for sharing moments like this, when we all get to experience a glorious Cape Cod sunset, whether you live here or not.

I'm still learning to navigate the online platforms that become more complicated every time I use them. Our children could hold a masters degree in online communications by the time they are 7 years old, while parents and grandparents are left scratching their heads for hours trying to figure out a task a child could complete in seconds. 

Facebook is just one example of how an online business can change to capture the whims of its users. As an online magazine, CapeWomenOnline is also adjusting how we operate in response our readers' feedback. 

In our Spring issue we introduced social media plugins to our website - something several readers had requested - so they can see what's going on on our CWO Facebook and Twitter pages while they peruse the site. As the designer of the magazine, it was my job to build a new layout that incorporated these additions. Once I settled on a design it was then Jane's job to weave her Web Princess magic and bring the whole thing to life. Do you think either of us knew what we were doing? Not a chance! It was all trial and error until we got it right.

This is where online publishing can get really interesting because the possibilities are as limitless as your imagination. For a creative mind like mine, which sees ideas in motion before they even exist (Jasper calls this a "visionary" approach to business) it means "If you can see it - you can be it!" How wonderful!

This was the view from Jane's living room last night. Although the image is nothing more than a collection of pixels translated into something we can relate to, the emotion this image evokes is rooted in reality. This is because our minds can't tell the difference between what is real, or what appears to be real. So when we see a spectacular sunset we may feel a sense of awe and gratitude whether we are looking at a photograph or watching it in real time. 

This is where our real and our digital worlds collide - and there can be a balance between the two. As publisher of a digital magazine, I believe we are riding a wave that is taking us into an exciting future where anything is possible. I can't pick up a copy of CWO in the traditional, tangible way, but I can feel its content, respond to its messages and participate in the events that happen offline, where real Cape Women come together to celebrate our rich culture and community.

Like the sunsets that color our skies with breathtaking splashes of yellows, oranges, purples and pinks, our online magazine is a place to share stories that inspire and capture the special moments of our lives. Through articles, poetry, artwork, photographs and letters from our readers, CWO sheds light on the women who live on Cape Cod and invites readers to participate in our vibrant community.

We are so much more than a digital collection of articles and images - we are a conversation that is taking place across multiple media platforms. If you aren't already a part of this conversation, we invite you join us by adding your email to our email list. Subscription is FREE and provides updates on new issues, events and fun gatherings as we support each other's creative and business ventures. One such event is happening this Friday night - it would be great if you could join us! 

Edith Lake Wilkinson is coming back to Provincetown.

Click HERE for details about this fabulous new exhibit at the Larkin Gallery, in Provincetown.

Click HERE to read an article by Jane Anderson, Edith's Great Niece, in the Winter 2013 issue of CapeWomenOnline magazine.